Sunday, March 21, 2004

Defending champs nearly lose grip

Phoenix Regional: 'Cuse wins despite squandering lead

The Associated Press

DENVER - Syracuse is still defending its national title - barely.

Hakim Warrick and the Orangemen nearly blew a 16-point lead before hanging on to beat Maryland 72-70 Saturday in a matchup between the last two NCAA champions.

Warrick had 26 points and nine rebounds for fifth-seeded Syracuse, which advanced to play Alabama in the round of 16. The Crimson Tide stunned top-seeded Stanford 70-67 Saturday.

The game was the third between the two previous champions in NCAA Tournament history, and the first since 1994 champ Arkansas beat 1993 winner North Carolina in the 1995 semifinals.

Gerry McNamara added 13 points for Syracuse (23-7). Travis Garrison and Jamar Smith led Maryland (20-12) with 16 points apiece.

Neither team shot well in the first half but Syracuse used runs of 10-0 and 9-0 to take a 32-22 halftime lead. Warrick had 13 points in the half.

McNamara was 0-for-5 from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range, but he contributed three assists.

Syracuse shot 32 percent in the half and Maryland shot 26 percent. The Terrapins committed 11 turnovers in the half compared to Syracuse's four.

SYRACUSE (23-7)-Warrick 8-17 10-15 26, Nichols 2-7 3-4 9, Forth 5-7 0-5 10, McNamara 2-11 7-8 13, Pace 4-9 1-2 9, Roberts 1-2 2-2 4, McNeil 0-0 1-2 1, McCroskey 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 24-38 72.

MARYLAND (20-12)-Garrison 5-11 6-8 16, Caner-Medley 1-3 2-2 4, Smith 4-11 8-11 16, Gilchrist 3-8 0-0 7, McCray 3-6 4-4 10, Strawberry 2-5 1-2 6, Jones 1-3 2-3 5, Ibekwe 1-4 4-8 6, Fofana 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 27-38 70.

Halftime score-Syracuse 32-22. 3-Point Goals-Syracuse 4-12 (Nichols 2-4, McNamara 2-7, McCroskey 0-1), Maryland 3-12 (Strawberry 1-1, Jones 1-3, Gilchrist 1-4, Caner-Medley 0-1, Garrison 0-1, McCray 0-2). Fouled out-Gilchrist, Ibekwe, McCray. Rebounds-Syracuse 38 (Forth 12), Maryland 40 (Garrison, Ibekwe 9). Assists-Syracuse 11 (McNamara 6), Maryland 13 (Gilchrist 6). Total fouls-Syracuse 25, Md 26.

Alabama 70, Stanford 67

SEATTLE - Josh Childress watched from the end of the bench as Stanford's latest comeback attempt came up just short, bouncing off the rim.

This time, there was no fantastic finish for the Cardinal.

Dan Grunfeld missed a 3-pointer from the right wing at the horn and Stanford became the first No. 1 seed to exit the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, upset by Alabama 70-67.

"We're extremely disappointed," coach Mike Montgomery said, looking stunned in the interview room. "It's hard to figure out what to say. We just never could seem to get on track."

Kennedy Winston scored 21 points and eighth-seeded Alabama (19-13) shot 10-of-14 from the free throw line in the final minute.

"People think by our record that we're not a very good team," said Tide point guard Antoine Pettway, who scored 12 points. "But we just beat Stanford."

The Crimson Tide shot 34-of-44 from the foul line, riding the free throws to the round of 16 for the first time since 1991. Alabama heads to Phoenix next week to face Syracuse.

"We always felt we could beat anybody. Now we really know it," said Alabama's Chuck Davis, who scored 12. "They were the No. 1 team in the country, and it gives us a lot of confidence going to Phoenix."

Childress, the Pac-10 player of the year, scored 12 points but he fouled out with 3:16 to play and had to watch the final minutes from the bench.

Twice earlier this season, Stanford stayed unbeaten with wild shots at the buzzer, including one over Arizona that brought alum Tiger Woods running onto the court at Maples Pavillion.

It appeared the Cardinal wouldn't need a last-second shot to beat Alabama after taking a 53-40 lead with 7:40 left. But the Crimson Tide rallied with a 16-0 run.

Alabama's players raced onto the court to celebrate, with Davis falling to the floor and then hugging Big Al, the Tide mascot. Pettway mugged for the first television camera he came across.

Stanford players filed past, shaking hands before retreating quietly to the locker room.

The second round has been rough on Stanford recently, with the Cardinal losing at this point for the fifth time in the last six years.

Seattle has been tough on Stanford, too.

The season ended two weeks to the day after the Cardinal's only regular-season setback, a 75-62 defeat at Washington - just a few miles from the site of this stunner.

"I'm just sick of getting to this point and saying, 'We're going to do it next year,' " point guard Chris Hernandez said. "It's to the point where you have to put it out on the floor and get it done."

Stanford was a No. 1 seed in 2000, losing to No. 8 North Carolina. Earlier in the day in Seattle, Nevada stunned No. 2 Gonzaga.

With 13.5 seconds on the clock, Alabama fans started chanting "overrated." The Tide players weren't intimidated, and they showed in the first half they had the athleticism to compete with Stanford.

"They weren't overrated. We were underrated," read a sign in the Alabama locker room.

ALABAMA (19-12)-Winston 5-12 10-15 21, Davidson 2-4 0-0 4, C.Davis 4-6 4-4 12, Shelton 1-9 11-14 14, Pettway 3-7 4-4 12, Thomas 0-4 1-3 1, Brock 1-1 4-4 6, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-43 34-44 70.

STANFORD (30-2)-Childress 5-17 1-1 12, J.Davis 7-13 1-2 15, Little 3-8 1-2 7, Hernandez 4-10 0-0 11, Lottich 4-15 0-0 11, Kirchofer 0-2 0-0 0, Grunfeld 0-2 0-0 0, Robinson 0-3 2-2 2, Haas 0-0 0-0 0, Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Haryasz 3-3 3-4 9. Totals 26-73 8-11 67.

Halftime-Stanford 39-37. 3-Point Goals-Alabama 4-19 (Pettway 2-6, Winston 1-4, Shelton 1-5, Thomas 0-4), Stanford 7-24 (Hernandez 3-6, Lottich 3-11, Childress 1-5, Grunfeld 0-1, Robinson 0-1). Fouled out-Childress, J.Davis, Haryasz. Rebounds-Alabama 29 (Pettway, Winston 7), Stanford 49 (J.Davis 11). Assists-Alabama 8 (Pettway 3), Stanford 12 (Lottich 3). Total fouls-Alabama 16, Stanford 31. A-15,827

UConn 72, DePaul 55

BUFFALO, N.Y. - This victory had Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun feeling a little sick.

Ben Gordon scored 18 points, Denham Brown had 12, Taliek Brown had 11 and Emeka Okafor had 10 points and 12 rebounds to lead Connecticut.

Connecticut (29-6), the Big East champion and second seed, advanced to the round of 16 for the 10th time in Calhoun's 18 years as coach and will play either North Carolina State or Vanderbilt.

DePaul and UConn had never played each other, but Calhoun and Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao are like father and son, making the matchup difficult for both.

Making matters worse, Calhoun left the bench midway through the second half during a timeout with an upset stomach and did not return until 1:54 remained and the Huskies were ahead 72-51.

The seventh-seeded Blue Demons (22-10) survived a sloppy 76-69 double-overtime win over Dayton in the first round but squandered any chance of upsetting UConn by missing their first 10 shots of the game.

Drake Diener led the Blue Demons with 15 points, Delonte Holland and Quemont Greer each scored 12, and Andre Brown had 11.

Leitao was recruited in 1978 by Calhoun and played for him at Northeastern.

Six years later, Calhoun hired him as an assistant and they stayed together for 16 years.

Leitao helped lead a dozen of Calhoun's teams to the NCAA Tournament, including UConn's 1999 national championship squad.

DEPAUL (22-10)-Holland 4-11 3-4 12, Greer 4-13 4-5 12, A.Brown 5-11 1-2 11, Mejia 0-5 0-0 0, Diener 5-11 2-2 15, Seals 0-0 0-0 0, Exilus 2-4 0-0 5, Heard 0-1 0-0 0, L.Thompson 0-2 0-0 0, Brumfield 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-59 10-13 55.

CONNECTICUT (29-6)-Boone 3-6 0-2 6, Anderson 3-8 0-0 7, Okafor 4-8 2-2 10, Gordon 4-13 7-8 18, T.Brown 5-11 1-3 11, Villanueva 2-3 0-0 5, Armstrong 1-3 1-2 3, Tooles 0-0 0-0 0, D.Brown 4-8 4-6 12. Totals 26-60 15-23 72.

Halftime-Connecticut 39-20. 3-Point Goals-DePaul 5-15 (Diener 3-7, Exilus 1-3, Holland 1-3, Mejia 0-2), Connecticut 5-16 (Gordon 3-7, Villanueva 1-2, Anderson 1-5, Armstrong 0-1, D.Brown 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-DePaul 35 (Diener 10), Connecticut 44 (Okafor 12). Assists-DePaul 12 (Mejia 6), Connecticut 15 (T.Brown, Gordon 4). Total fouls-DePaul 20, Connecticut 15. A-18,686

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