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April 6, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, April 6th, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

The Final Four is proving to be a study in contrasts as two teams now remain. With that in mind, let’s look at Saturday’s games.

In what figured to be a close high-scoring game, Kansas dominated Marquette, breaking it open in the first half and running away in the second half in a 94-61 victory, the fourth-most lopsided game in Final Four history. Marquette (27-6) shot just 31% from the floor and was never really in it after Dwyane Wade and his perimeter support players, Travis Diener and Steve Novak, got off to slow starts. Wade didn’t look to score as much as he should have, and Diener and Novak didn’t have the touch from long range that they had leading up to the Final Four. Kansas (30-7) made four of its first five three-point shots, while Keith Langford (23 points on 11-14 shooting) and Aaron Miles (18 points) got several baskets early that helped the Jayhawks open the lead. The Jayhawks shot 53% from the floor in the biggest blowout win in the Final Four since Michigan State beat Penn 101-67 in the 1979 semifinals, leading by as many as 43 along the way.

For the Jayhawks, it has been all about the seniors, and Nick Collison (12 points, 15 rebounds) and Kirk Hinrich (18 points) kept that going in this game with help from Langford, who continues to thrive in NCAA Tournament play. Both got their share of easy baskets during the game before resting for the final few minutes.

Wade led Marquette with 19 points in what might be his final collegiate game, while Scott Merritt had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

While the first game was a blowout, the second game was a close one between Texas and Syracuse that wasn’t decided until the final two minutes. With under 12 minutes left, Syracuse broke a 61-61 tie with five straight points, then gradually widened the lead and held off Texas in the final minutes in a 95-84 win.

Texas (26-7) got off to a good start behind junior Brandon Mouton (team-high 25 points), who led the Longhorns in scoring in the NCAA Tournament. But as the game wore on, the Longhorns didn’t do as good a job trying to attack the 2-3 zone of Syracuse (29-5). One time down, a player didn’t flash to the foul line from the short corner; another time, they simply didn’t move the ball quickly enough to get chances to penetrate inside the zone. The Longhorns took advantage of some early chances to score before the Orangemen could set up the zone, but hurt themselves at the foul line later in the game, as they were 20-32 from the line. Mouton didn’t get many good shots later in the game, finishing 8-23 from the field after a hot start.

But the Orangemen didn’t just win this game with their defense. They shot a scorching 57% from the field and made 34 of 31 free throws.

While it’s all about the seniors for Kansas, Syracuse starts with their freshmen on a team with just one senior. Carmelo Anthony was the star, scoring a career-high 33 points on 12-19 shooting, and grabbing 14 rebounds. He had good help from the other freshman in the starting lineup, Gerry McNamara, who had 19 points, and always seemed to score at crucial points in the game and was around the ball for key plays.

But aside from the personnel leading each team, the finalists are also quite different in how they normally win. Kansas shoots over 49% from the field and is third in the nation in scoring, while Syracuse wins by relying on the 2-3 zone to shut down teams at the defensive end. The game will feature the two head coaches who have the most NCAA Tournament wins without a national championship (Boeheim has 37, Williams has 34).

With Texas losing, Monday night’s national championship game will be the first since 1998 without a number one seed.

Side Dishes

Like a True Terminator: After his team’s loss to Syracuse on Saturday night, Texas sophomore point guard T.J. Ford told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that he “will definitely be back” next season. Ford, who finished his season with 12 points and 13 assists in the defeat on Saturday, has won several national Player of the Year honors. With Texas returning all but two players from this team, Ford’s return means the Longhorns will be among the top teams in most of next year’s preseason polls.

Two More Vacancies Filled: Dayton head coach Oliver Purnell was introduced on Saturday as the next head coach at Clemson. Purnell posted a 156-116 record in nine seasons at Dayton, turning them into a consistent winner in recent seasons. This past season was the highlight, as the Flyers went 25-6 and won their first Atlantic Ten championship. Purnell replaces Larry Shyatt, who resigned nearly three weeks ago.

Also, Murray State hired Louisville assistant coach Mick Cronin to be their next head coach. Cronin replaces Tevester Anderson, who retired nearly two weeks ago.

Rumors Abound: ESPN.com has reported other news of note in the coaching carousel. Memphis head coach John Calipari is being lured by Pittsburgh boosters, but not the school; former head coach Ben Howland is pushing assistant Jamie Dixon, whom the players reportedly requested to be the head coach. Meanwhile, Hartford head coach Larry Harrison is trying to get involved with the search at his alma mater, South Florida; prior to his good work at Hartford, Harrison was an assistant at fellow Conference USA schools DePaul and Cincinnati. And the search at Georgia continues with several possible candidates and no clear leader among Creighton’s Dana Altman, Western Kentucky’s Dennis Felton, Indiana’s Mike Davis, and former NBA coaches Tim Floyd (Chicago Bulls) and Lon Kruger (Atlanta Hawks).

Tonight’s Menu:

• The women’s Final Four is also this weekend, with the semifinals coming tonight. First, Duke takes on Tennessee at 7 PM, then Connecticut takes on Texas approximately 30 minutes after the end of the first game.

• Today is the final day of the Playaz Spring Fling in northern New Jersey. Stay tuned for coverage of it after the national championship.

That’s it for now. Enjoy your Sunday!

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