Sunday, March 21, 2004

Connecticut coach departs game early

NCAA notebook

The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, facing one of his former coaches for the first time in the NCAA tournament, left the bench midway through the second half Saturday night with an upset stomach.

Calhoun departed with 11:18 remaining in the game and his Huskies leading DePaul 53-36. George Blaney took over. Calhoun returned with 1:54 left and Connecticut ahead by 21 points.

DePaul coach Dave 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 title squad.

RATINGS: The first two days of the NCAA Tournament tied with 1998 and 2000 for the highest-rated since 1997.

CBS' two-day coverage of the Tournament averaged a 4.8 preliminary national rating with an 11 share. That's up 7 percent from 2002's 4.5. The ratings for the first two days of the Tournament last year were down considerably, with viewers drawn to war coverage.

Jayhawks' Simien expected to play: Kansas enters the second round of the NCAA Tournament battered and gimpy.

At least the Jayhawks can expect to have their leading scorer and rebounder to help them against upstart Pacific in the second round of the St. Louis Regional.

Power forward Wayne Simien, who aggravated a groin injury in the Jayhawks' 78-53 win over Illinois-Chicago in the first round, is probable for today's game. He leads Kansas (22-8) with averages of 17.6 points and 9.1 rebounds.

"He's sore. He couldn't play today," coach Bill Self said Saturday. "But when the juices get flowing and he has time to get into it, I think he'll be able to convince himself that he'll be able to go."

A FAMILIAR FACE: The Georgia Tech staff can skip that scouting report on Boston College forward Uka Agbai; coach Paul Hewitt already knows everything he needs.

Hewitt recruited Agbai when he was coaching at Sienna, but Agbai and one of his high school teammates had promised to stay together. When Hewitt didn't have a scholarship for the friend, Agbai turned Sienna down. He later signed with Boston College.

"Any time you lose a person the quality of Uka it's a big deal," said Hewitt, whose Yellow Jackets play Boston College in the second round of the St. Louis Regional today on Sunday. "He can set the tone not only for the guys you have on the court but also the kids you're going to recruit. If your best player is your hardest worker, then you've got a good thing going."

Agbai has certainly done that with the Eagles. He is averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds for Boston College, and he's the undisputed team leader.

The fifth-year senior already has earned his degree, and is on track to get his master's this spring.

"You're talking about a young man that wasn't highly recruited. It's his work ethic and his attitude that have gotten him this far, and have allowed him to have that kind of success in his career," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "He's what you want from a student-athlete."

RATTLERS RATTLED: Florida A&M coach Mike Gillespie got a little worried when the police arrived at the Rattlers' hotel to escort the team to Nationwide Arena.

"When the police show up, we always think one of our guys is going to be arrested," he said jokingly. "... I do have good kids, but it was the first time we ever did have a police escort for something good."

Florida A&M hung with Kentucky for nearly 30 minutes on Friday before losing 96-76 in the first round. The Wildcats may have gotten the win, but the Rattlers seemed to get the memories.

"I'm just happy that we made it here," guard Demarcus Wilkins said. "We stayed in a hotel that had a TV in the bathroom. I just wish I had another week, man."

RICHARDSON'S BACK: Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson was in the stands for Alabama-Birmingham's first-round game, a 102-100 win over Washington on Friday night.

Richardson sat with the Blazer fans and even tried to do a little coaching, waving at defenders to get back late in the game.

UAB coach Mike Anderson spent 20 years with Richardson, 17 of them as an assistant at Arkansas. Anderson is making his first NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach, but went 15 times as one of Richardson's assistants.

His mentor came along for support.

"He was a tremendous inspiration just to be here," said Anderson, who speaks with him regularly. "All I am is an extension of him. I think I learned from the best."

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