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March 23, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, March 23rd, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

March Madness is all about the kind of matchups we saw on Saturday. The highlights were two more overtime games, both great matchups that lived up to their pre-game billing.

The first game was in Indianapolis, as the Midwest’s No. 3 Marquette and No. 6 Missouri went to battle. And battle they did, as each team got big games from two players and the game was close for most of the 40 minutes of regulation. Marquette turned it up in the extra session, as freshman forward Steve Novak made three three-pointers to cap a 4-4 day from behind the arc (14 points), and their defense held the Tigers in check in the final minutes as they pulled away with the 101-92 victory.

Marquette (25-5) got another big game from Travis Diener, who had 26 points to lead the way, while Dwyane Wade had 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. In defeat, Missouri (22-11) got 36 points from Rickey Paulding and 28 points and 18 rebounds from Arthur Johnson.

The second game was in Salt Lake City and featured the time-tested bracket busters, Gonzaga. The Bulldogs, seeded No. 9 in the West region, took on top-seeded Arizona. The Bulldogs got a big first half from Tony Skinner (15 points) to grab the lead at the half despite the struggles of Blake Stepp, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year. The first half was tight, with both teams having their spurts.

In the second half, the Wildcats came out running to regain the lead, but Gonzaga came right back. The Wildcats would then open their largest lead of the game at 65-57, but it wouldn’t last long as Stepp found his stroke. The junior guard made a four-point play to cap a stretch where he scored 12 straight Gonzaga points over 3:23, keeping the Bulldogs close. With time running down, Stepp missed a three-pointer, but Skinner got the rebound as Rick Anderson couldn’t corral it, and put it home to send the game to overtime.

The extra session was back and forth, with Gonzaga taking the lead, before needing a three-pointer by Stepp to tie it at 87 with just over a minute to play. Richard Fox got a layup off an inbound pass, then Luke Walton made a shot in close to send the game to a second overtime tied at 89.

The teams went back and forth again in the second overtime before Arizona (27-3) held on to survive with a 96-95 victory. The Bulldogs’ season ends at 24-9.

Side Dishes

Pulling One Out: Another Midwest game that came down to the wire was in the Midwest, as No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 13 Tulsa went at it in Spokane. Tulsa led for most of the game, including by double digits at times, but Wisconsin came back. The Badgers trailed by two with under a minute to play, and forced a shot clock violation with 12.1 seconds left. Freddie Owens then hit a three-pointer from the corner with one second left to give the Badgers (24-7) a 61-60 win over the Golden Hurricane (23-10).

Easy Does It: Two teams in the West region that will meet in the regional semifinal had an easy time of it on Saturday. No. 2 Kansas (27-7) dominated No. 10 Arizona State (20-12) in a 108-76 thrashing. No. 3 Duke (26-6) had an easy time with No. 11 Central Michigan (25-7), 86-60.

Big Day for the Big East: The Big East has already placed two teams in the Sweet 16 with Saturday wins, and both in games with identical seeds. In the East region, No. 5 Connecticut (23-9) took out No. 4 Stanford (24-9), 85-74 in Spokane. Ben Gordon led the Huskies with 29 points, while Julius Barnes capped an excellent season with 23 in the losing effort for Stanford. Meanwhile, in the West region, No. 5 Notre Dame (24-10) matched their Big East counterpart with a 68-60 win over No. 4 Illinois (25-7) by holding the Illini to under 35% shooting.

Not To Be Outdone: The Big 12 also has two teams in the Sweet 16, as Oklahoma, the East’s No. 1 seed, advanced with a 74-65 win over No. 8 California. The Sooners (26-6) got a big game from freshman Kevin Bookout, who dominated the paint with 22 points and 7 rebounds as they beat the Golden Bears (22-9) on the glass by a 34-23 margin. Brian Wethers closed out his college career with a game-high 27 points to lead California.

Also Moving On to the Sweet 16: Well, not the one you initially think of. Providence used its height advantage to score 36 points in the paint, and got big games from sophomores Rob Sanders (20 points, 7 rebounds) and Ryan Gomes (19 points, 8 rebounds) in a 69-64 win over College of Charleston to reach the second round of the NIT. The Friars (18-13) also held leading scorer Troy Wheless to just 7 points on 2-12 shooting, as the Cougars finish their season at 25-8.

Georgia Investigation Expands: The Associated Press reported on Saturday that University of Georgia officials are investigating further allegations of improprieties in the men’s basketball program. They are investigating charges that a high school guidance counselor asked a student to take the SAT for Alexander Johnson, a 6’9″ forward that the Bulldogs are recruiting. Johnson signed with Georgia as a high school senior, but did not qualify and played a prep year at Bridgton Academy in Maine. Johnson, who is no longer being recruited by Georgia, said on Friday that he knew nothing about this.

Tonight’s Menu:

The Sweet 16 will be complete after today’s games. The East and South regions each lead the way with three games.

• In the East, No. 12 Butler tries to continue its run against No. 4 Louisville in Birmingham, while No. 6 Oklahoma State tries to break the zone of No. 3 Syracuse in Boston and No. 10 Auburn tries to further justify their selection against No. 2 Wake Forest in Tampa.

• In the South, No. 6 Maryland just got by UNC-Wilmington, and now faces No. 3 Xavier in Nashville, while No. 9 Purdue takes on No. 1 Texas in Birmingham and No. 7 Michigan State takes on No. 2 Florida in Tampa, in a rematch of the 2000 NCAA Championship game.

• In the Midwest, No. 7 Indiana takes on No. 2 Pittsburgh in Boston, while No. 9 Utah takes on No. 1 Kentucky in Nashville, in a rematch of the 1998 NCAA Championship game.

• The NIT has one game, as Siena hosts Western Michigan in Albany. The NIT will be down to 15 teams after this game.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Sunday and good luck keeping those brackets in shape!

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