The Morning Dish – Friday, March 12th
St. Joe’s pummeled for first loss: From perfect to pummeled. Saint Joseph’s first game as the nation’s No. 1 team also was its first loss of the season, a shocking 87-67 collapse against unranked Xavier in the Atlantic-10 quarterfinals Thursday. The Hawks came in with a 27-0 record, three victories from becoming the first team since 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated. But they trailed Xavier by as many as 37 points, and the upset raises questions about how serious a contender the tiny Philadelphia school will be for the national championship. The rout also tarnishes a magical run by a team that was one of the biggest surprises in sports this year, and it could cost Saint Joseph’s a top seeding in the NCAAs. “I’m assuming that the televisions wherever that committee is meeting didn’t work,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “This was our 20th game away from our own fieldhouse. We’re 19-1 in those games. They (the committee) will understand that. The committee will do us right because of our body of work. Not 40 minutes.” It’s the worst loss ever by a No. 1 team against an unranked team. A partisan crowd began rubbing it in midway through the second half, chanting “Sloppy Joe’s!” Romain Sato led Xavier with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Lionel Chalmers scored 23, and Anthony Myles had 19. Saint Joseph’s backcourt stars Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were held to a combined 11-for-35 shooting, and scored 16 points each. Xavier (21-10) made 71.1 percent of its shots, while holding Saint Joseph’s to 35.4 percent — its worst showing all season. “Any loss is devastating, especially when you work so hard,” Nelson said. “We take pride in our defense and we let ourselves down with our defense today.” At one point, Saint Joseph’s was limited to one field goal over more than 10 minutes. And the Hawks’ biggest weakness, their inside game, was exposed by the Musketeers, who out-rebounded Saint Joseph’s 43-18. “They’re a great team. They didn’t go 27-0 for no reason. They made history,” Chalmers said. “They’re one of the great teams in the country. They deserve a No. 1 seed.”
Cardinals band escapes from fire: The charter bus for the University of Louisville pep band caught fire Thursday night outside U.S. Bank Arena, where the men’s basketball team was playing in the Conference USA tournament. No one was aboard the parked bus when the fire started about 8 p.m. EST and no one was injured, said District Fire Chief Steven Phillips of the Cincinnati Fire Department. Phillips said the fire apparently was sparked by an electrical short in the engine. The bus sustained significant damage on the outside, but none on the interior, Phillips said. The fire occurred while the Cardinals were losing to Cincinnati in the tournament quarterfinals. The band and the cheerleaders used the same company, but went to Cincinnati on separate buses, sports information director Kenny Klein said Thursday night. The company sent another bus to bring the band back to Louisville. He did not have the company’s name.
Cowboys working on contract extension: Officials at Oklahoma State are working on a contract extension for associate head coach Sean Sutton that would keep him in Stillwater and possibly position him to replace his father, Eddie Sutton, as head coach of the Cowboys, according to published reports. OSU athletic director Harry Birdwell said Sean Sutton’s contract would be reviewed after the season but he declined to elaborate. Sean Sutton told the Tulsa World that he and Birdwell “have had some discussions, and when the time is right and this season’s over with, there’s a good chance we’ll sit down again and visit about my future. There certainly has not been anything guaranteed at this point.” Sutton said Wednesday he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the vacancy at Southern Methodist. “I’m not a candidate for any job at this point,” Sutton told The Oklahoman. “I really like the job I have right now.” Sutton, 35, interviewed for the opening at Clemson last year and was thought to be a candidate for several other jobs. Sutton played four seasons for his father, two at Kentucky and the final two at Oklahoma State. He’s since been an assistant under Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State for 11 years, being elevated to associate head coach in 2000.
MAC Tourney Update: Juby Johnson scored 20 points — 13 on free throws — and Miami of Ohio moved into the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament with a 72-67 quarterfinal win over Ball State on Thursday. Chet Mason added 14 points for the third-seeded RedHawks (18-10), who had failed to reach the semis the past two years after 10 straight appearances. But Miami made all the big plays and its free throws down the stretch in holding off the sixth-seeded Cardinals (14-15). Robert Owens scored 17 and Matt McCollom 13 to lead Ball State, which has won more MAC titles (seven) than any other school. Miami will play second-seeded Kent State in Friday night’s second semifinal. DeAndre Haynes scored a career-high 26 points as the Golden Flashes (21-7) advanced with a 79-66 win over seventh-seeded Bowling Green. The RedHawks swept both games from Kent State during the regular season. In the evening quarterfinal session, top-seeded Western Michigan plays eighth-seeded Marshall and fourth-seeded Toledo plays fifth-seeded Buffalo.
UMBC coach resigns: Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball coach Tom Sullivan resigned Friday. Sullivan compiled a 106-145 record in nine seasons at UMBC. The Retrievers went 7-21 this season and Sullivan was not with the team at the America East tournament for a 65-59 first-round loss to Stony Brook. Assistant Randy Monroe filled in for him. “Tom Sullivan provided UMBC Basketball with many fine moments during his tenure here,” athletic director Dr. Charles Brown said. “We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.” Sullivan, a former assistant under P.J. Carlesimo at Seton Hall, was named Big South Conference Coach of the Year in 1998 and earned Northeast Conference Coach of the Year honors the following season after UMBC switched leagues.
Big East Tourney Update: Jaron Brown scored 20 points and Pittsburgh opened its defense of the Big East tournament title with a quarterfinal victory over Virginia Tech. Carl Krauser had 16 points for the Panthers (28-3), who will face Boston College in the semifinals. The game was the last in the Big East for Virginia Tech (15-14), which moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Jared Dudley made four free throws in the last 93 seconds and Boston College overcame an 11-point deficit to beat Syracuse in the Big East quarterfinals. Craig Smith added two late free throws to help the Eagles (23-8) beat the defending national champion Orangemen (21-7). Smith led Boston College with 22 points, and Dudley and Uka Agbai had 13 each. Gerry McNamara topped Syracuse with 15.
With Emeka Okafor on the bench in street clothes, the ninth-ranked Huskies got big efforts from three players to beat Notre Dame 66-58 Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. “We knew we had to pick up the slack and we got the job done,” said Ben Gordon, who had 29 points. “We all knew we had talent. We just proved it to other people. The guys stepped up and made key contributions.” Freshmen Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueva had strong games on the boards for the second-seeded Huskies (25-6), who advanced to the semifinals for the ninth straight year. They will play Villanova, which beat No. 20 Providence 69-66 in the late game. “You know, it’s a real big thing,” Boone said. “The last time we played Notre Dame the kid had 22 rebounds and 16 points. We really saw me and Charlie needed to step up tonight, and I think we did a good job of that.” Okafor, a 6-foot-10 junior, did not play because of back spasms related to a small stress fracture of the fifth lumbar vertebrae. He will be re-evaluated Friday, with Dr. Jeff Anderson, the school’s director of sports medicine, saying Okafor could be available for the semifinals depending on the pain. “It’s ver
y conceivable,” Anderson said.
Pac-10 Tourney Update: The Stanford Cardinals returned to their winning ways and got Justin Davis back, too. Josh Childress scored 17 points and the second-ranked Cardinal led all the way in defeating Washington State 68-47 Thursday in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. Stanford had lost its opening game both times since the Pac-10 revived the tournament in 2002. Before Washington ended Stanford’s 26-game winning streak last Saturday, the Cougars put a scare into the Cardinal, who needed seven points in the final 25 seconds for the victory. “They concerned us because they gave us a great game a week ago,” Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. “We came out and played harder and defended the shooters better.”
Conference USA Tourney Update: Armein Kirkland worked free against a smaller defender and made a short bank shot with 16.9 seconds left, giving No. 13 Cincinnati a 64-62 victory over Louisville on Thursday night in the Conference USA quarterfinals. Taquan Dean’s rushed 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, providing a second consecutive dramatic finish this season for the longtime rivals. Cincinnati (22-6) lost by 27 points at Louisville in January, ending its season-opening winning streak at 13. The Bearcats needed overtime to beat the Cardinals in the rematch on their home court. Playing in a downtown arena near campus, the Bearcats overcame Francisco Garcia’s career-high 28 points and one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. It came down to one play suggested by Kirkland. During a timeout to set up Cincinnati’s last shot, the 6-foot-8 forward told coach Bob Huggins that he was being guarded by Dean, a 6-foot-3 point guard who is limited by a groin injury. The idea: Let Kirkland get in position under the basket for a pass. “It’s just a play we have in practice,” Kirkland said. “We didn’t run it at all in the game. I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got a mismatch,’ and we’ve only run that play a couple of times in 20-odd games.” Louisville (20-9) surrounded power forward Jason Maxiell when he got the ball near the free-throw line, leaving Kirkland open to catch a pass and make an easy shot that snapped the game’s seventh tie.
• Conference tournaments continue. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Conference USA and Big East are to just name a few. Among those playing: Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Texas, Pittsburgh and Mississippi State. Catch a full recap tomorrow!