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Conference USA Semifinals Recap

March 13, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA Semifinals Recap

Recap by Zach Van Hart

No. 1 DePaul 75, No. 4 UAB 74
The lane opened up like the first present on Christmas morning. After a second of hesitation, Delonte Holland saw the opening and took advantage. Trailing by one and holding for the final shot, Holland was fouled driving to the lane and hit the game-winning free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining, as DePaul advanced to the C-USA tournament finals in overtime, 75-74. Holland led all scorers with 21 points, while grabbing nine rebounds. The Blue Demons managed to win despite not hitting a field during the overtime period. Their last bucket came on a Quemont Greer jumper with 1:33 remaining in regulation. The shot gave DePaul a 68-63 lead, but Morris Finley closed out the second half with a three-point play and a short runner with 37.2 seconds left to force overtime. Overall, Finley struggled from the field (6-of-21). But his two baskets were crucial and he added another tough jumper in overtime. He finished with 20 points. Holland was the story though, as he led a second half surge by the Blue Demons in addition to his game-winning free throws.

When UAB’s Carldell Johnson made a steal and took it the length of the court, the Blazers took their largest lead of the game, 49-33. It was DePaul’s eighteen turnover of the game. But the Demons soon cleaned up its act and by no coincidence, starting roaring back. They would only turn the ball over two more times during the final 21 minutes and responded with a 25-6 run, taking a 58-55 lead. While everyone contributed in the run, including two three-pointers from reserve guard Chris Exilus, Holland was the catalyst. When DePaul was not hitting shots, Holland was there to collect the garbage. He grabbed four offensive rebounds, mainly during the decisive run. The Blue Demons made up for the turnover margin (20-6) with good shooting (49 percent) and by dominating the glass (42-27). Quemont Greer and Andre Brown added to Holland’s performance, combining for 24 points and 21 rebounds. Johnson had a big day for the Blazers, earning a double-double with fourteen points and a career-high eleven assists. DePaul will play Cincinnati at 11:45 a.m., Saturday.

No. 2 Cincinnati 66, No. 7 Saint Louis 46
Basketball is a game of runs and Cincinnati laid a big one on Saint Louis Friday, springing the No. 3 seed to a 66-46 win against No. 7 Saint Louis and a berth in the C-USA tourney finals. The Bearcats will play No. 1 seed DePaul at 11:45 a.m. Saturday. Leading 31-30, the Bearcats used a barrage of three-pointers to sprint to a 19-0 run over a span of eight-plus minutes. Cincinnati hit five treys during the stretch, each one sticking the dagger deeper into the Billikens. By the time Nick Williams buried a three-pointer with 12:04 remaining, it was 47-30 and the Billikens were done. Cincinnati capitalized on a horrendous shooting night by SLU, which went 14-of-51 from the field. The hometown team also struggled during the first 20 minutes, but hit its first five shots out of halftime and never looked back. A well-balanced attack led them, as Tony Bobbitt had twelve points, Williams had eleven off the bench, James White nine and Kareem Johnson eight. Josh Fisher led the Billikens with fourteen points.

Down 27-23 at the half, Saint Louis challenged the Bearcats during the first two minutes of the half, scoring on its first three possessions. But Cincinnati matched the Billikens on each possession, seemingly taking the energy out of the underdogs. Then the Bearcat outside shooters were unleashed. First Field Williams hit a bomb, followed by White, back-to-back treys by Bobbitt, and then the capper from Nick Williams. Baskets by Johnson and Armein Kirkland sprinkled in with the three-pointers completed the 19-0 run. The largest ovation in the game came when little-used John Meeker scored on a backdoor layup with 42.6 seconds remaining. His appearance only signified the game was well in hand. The win set up a rematch from eight days ago, when DePaul defeated the Bearcats in Chicago, 68-65. Back on Jan. 10, Cincinnati easily beat a Blue Demon squad without Andre Brown, 90-65.

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