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Midwest Region Recap

March 20, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Midwest Second Round Recap

by Greg Bacani

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 7 Wake Forest
As the old saying goes: “You dance with the one that
brought you.” That is precisely what Oregon has done
all year and especially now when it matters most.
Leaning heavily on the terrific triumvirate of Luke
Jackson, Luke Ridnour and Frederick Jones, they scored
81 of their team’s 92 points to lead Oregon past Wake
Forest 92-87 and into the Sweet 16.

The game had a terrific pace and rhythm, as both teams
got up and down the court and shot well from the
field. The Demon Deacons countered Oregon’s quack
attack with the long ball, connecting on 11 of 19 3-pt
attempts, led by senior guard Craig Dawson’s 20 points
(5-8 3-pt FGs). Senior forward Darius Songaila
benefited from Dawson’s long range exploits, which
allowed Songaila to roam in the paint, resulting in 19
points and 13 rebounds.

However, at 7:45 left to play in the game, Dawson
dislocated his shoulder after colliding with Jones and
was out for the rest of the game. Without him, Wake
Forest missed his presence and found themselves up
Dawson’s Creek.

And in the end it was Oregon that prevailed, thanks in
large part to their heralded trio and clutch free
throw shooting (22-24 FT) to ice the game.

“We all expect this out of each of us,” said Jones
after the game looking at Jackson and Ridnour. “We
have a lot of confidence in each other. We don’t think
it’s anything new.”

How good are the Mighty Ducks of Sacramento playing
right now? Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser likened
their style to the normal tenants of Arco Arena, the
Sacramento Kings. “Those three kids – we couldn’t find
a way to even slow them down, much less stop them,”
said Prosser. “Today, they probably could have played
for the Kings.”

Ernie Kent’s kids are moving on to Wisconsin where
they will face the winner of Texas/Mississippi State,
with a potential matchup with the No.1 seed Kansas,
looming. Somewhere, Dick Vitale is giggling in
anticipation of that game.

No. 3 Mississippi State vs. No. 6 Texas

Texas jumped on Mississippi State early and held on to
beat the Bulldogs 68-64 and advance to the Sweet 16
for the first time since 1997, where they will take on
Oregon, the No. 2 seed in Wisconsin on Friday.

Junior forward Deginald Erskin was the catalyst for
the Longhorns with his overall strong play around the
goal, tipping in missed shots and hitting from the
perimeter. Erskin made his first 7 shots and was the
driving force behind Texas’ opening blitzkrieg. The
Longhorns led by as many as 23 points (they made 14 of
their first 18 shots) in the first half, against
Mississippi State. Erskin finished with a game-high 17
points on 8-9 FG shooting.

“I really thought that he was the difference in the
game,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “We told the
guys to get him the ball. Our players will tell you
he’s the hardest player on the team to guard.”

As is the case in the NCAA Tournament, this game was a
tale of 2 halves. While Mississippi State began the
game out of sync in the first half, Mississippi State
coach Rick Stansbury rallied his troops after the
intermission and the Bulldogs came out with a greater
sense of purpose.
They harassed the Longhorns into 20 turnovers with
their aggressive half court defense, including 7 by the
normally sure handed T.J. Ford.

Erskin was held in check for the first 12 minutes of
the second half, while the Bulldogs chipped away at
the Longhorns and with 3 minutes left to play,
Mississippi State found themselves down 60-57. Junior
guard Derrick Zimmerman had a chance to tie the game
but his 3 point attempt rimmed out and that was as
close as the Bulldogs would get.

For the game,
Mississippi State shot 6-23 (26%) from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately for Stansbury and the Bulldogs, senior
guard Marckell Patterson and sophomore forward Mario
Austin were not the formidable duo that combined for
45 points against McNeese State. On Sunday, Patterson
and Austin totaled a rather tame 16 points.

In the end, the Longhorns were able to ride out the
victory because of their torrid start as well as the
hometown surroundings, courtesy of the selection
committee’s “pod” system, which allows certain teams
to play closer to home, which didn’t sit well with

“If you’re asking me should a lower-seed have an
advantage – no,” said Stansbury. “We’re the only high
seed that had to do this.”

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