This time, Fla. survives, 67-62

No. 4 seed holds off Ohio, avoids another early exit

Carolina, UConn advance

Ncaa Regional

Syracuse

March 19, 2005|By Jeff Darlington | Jeff Darlington,ORLANDO SENTINEL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - His head shaking side to side, Florida guard Matt Walsh flipped the ball into the air and lethargically walked toward his team's bench.

So much for celebrations. So close to defeat.

After flirting with a first-round disaster for yet another year, the Gators had only two reasons to rejoice as time expired yesterday.

At least this game was over. At least their season wasn't.

Florida barely managed a 67-62 win over Ohio, surrendering a 20-point lead in the second half that nearly cost the fourth-seeded team its second consecutive first-round loss in the NCAA tournament.

"I'm not trying to take anything from Ohio, but I was pretty angry at our team," Walsh said. "It wasn't the same feeling as when I launched the ball 800 feet into the crowd when we beat Kentucky [in the Southeastern Conference tournament title game]. ... I was [mad] at our team for letting them get back into it."

This was far from the team that breezed through the SEC tournament. This time, Florida (24-7) lacked offensive production and defensive aggression.

Guards Anthony Roberson and Walsh combined to make just one of nine shots in the second half, all while Ohio (21-11) was orchestrating a 21-2 run. Roberson, the SEC's leading scorer, failed to make a single three-point attempt, finishing 3-for-15 with 11 points.

"I don't remember Roberson and Walsh collectively playing that poorly all year," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Those guys didn't play well. And [forward] David Lee didn't have a great game. So hopefully we can get back on the beam and get this behind us."

Villanova 55, New Mexico 47: Kyle Lowry made two sets of free throws in the final 1:38, then came up with a clutch steal as Villanova held off New Mexico.

Lowry finished with eight points, and Mike Nardi led the Wildcats with 15 points.

After holding 12th-seeded New Mexico to 11 points in the first half and leading by as many as 24, Villanova almost gave the game away.

The Wildcats (23-7) made just three field goals in the second half, and Allan Ray and Curtis Sumpter finished a combined 2-for-22. Villanova also had 20 turnovers, 12 in the second half.

The Lobos (26-7) made a furious rally, pulling within 52-47 with 29 seconds left. But they couldn't overcome their dismal start. Danny Granger led New Mexico with 15 points and Mark Walters had 14 - all in the second half.

Charlotte, N.C.

Iowa State 64, Minnesota 53: Iowa State's defensive strength played to Minnesota's most glaring offensive weaknesses with predictable effect.

The Cyclones' frenetic zone press forced Minnesota into 17 turnovers and ushered the Gophers out of the NCAA tournament in a first-round game at Charlotte Coliseum.

The reward for Iowa State, the No. 9 seed in the Syracuse Regional, was a second-round date tomorrow against No. 1 seed North Carolina. The Tar Heels crushed Oakland (Mich.), 96-68, to advance.

"I think we got some disruption out of the press," coach Wayne Morgan said after Iowa State's first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2001. "At other times, we didn't get a turnover, but the clock was going down because they took time to get organized against our half-court defense."

Curtis Stinson led Iowa State (19-11) with 18 points despite playing with a jammed thumb and an ankle he twisted when he came down awkwardly on another player's foot while driving to the basket.

But it was the presence of senior Jared Homan and freshman Rahshon Clark that caused most of Minnesota's misery. Homan scored 14 points and took 13 rebounds while blocking seven shots, including six in the second half. Clark contributed 14 points and four steals at the point of attack on the Cyclones' trapping defense.

Minnesota coach Dan Monson was worried about Clark coming into Charlotte and discovered those concerns were well-founded.

"I felt he was very underrated from what people told us and my evaluation off tape," Monson said. "He's so long [in arm span], you've got to ball fake him. He's a key cog offensively, too, because he stretches you. He hits some big shots for them."

The Cyclones' 2-3 zone forced Minnesota (21-11) to go outside when it wanted to go inside and ruined the hometown return of Charlotte native Vincent Grier, who hit only seven of 21 shots.

"Vincent Grier's game is not suited for busting zones open," Monson said after Grier's 14-point, four-turnover performance.

North Carolina 96, Oakland 68: One week after North Carolina bombed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the Tar Heels atoned with an easy first-round victory over Oakland (Mich.).

The top-seeded Tar Heels (28-4) staggered the Golden Grizzlies (13-19) with torrid first-half shooting. Carolina connected on six of its first seven shots and 12 of its first 14 to quickly squelch the feel-good story Oakland had written by winning its last six games to make the tourney.

Scoring at will, the Tar Heels hit 22 of 30 first-half shots (73.3 percent) and their first six three-point attempts in front of 23,207 at Charlotte Coliseum.

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