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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT

USC-Illinois Winner Figures to Have Guard Up

March 14, 1997|GEORGE DOHRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Judging from the questions coaches and players from both Illinois and USC were asked Thursday, the winner of today's first-round game may not be the better team, but the team with the better guard.

The guard matchup of USC's Stais Boseman and Illinois Kiwane Garris has drawn most of the attention for today's Southeast Regional game (noon Pacific time) at the Charlotte Coliseum.

"He is probably the key to their success the past couple years," Boseman said. "My style of defense is to try and keep the ball out of his hands. But he being the point guard, that is difficult."

Said the 6-foot-2 Garris, "[Boseman] is a guy who likes to bump you, hold you. I'll need to move without the ball and keep my composure. And, I'll have to do a good job on him because he likes to drive."

USC has contained its enthusiasm over its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1992, mainly because it believes it matches up well with Illinois. Both teams feature three-guard lineups, but USC is deeper and more athletic.

"They're more physical than we are," Illinois Coach Lon Kruger said. "They are not only bigger inside but also on the perimeter. We don't have guards the size of Boseman [6-4] and [Rodrick] Rhodes [6-6]."

Illinois defeated UCLA this season, something USC failed to do with two chances. But Garris said that gives Illinois no advantage.

"We beat them in December, when they weren't playing very good, and since the conference season started [UCLA] has been playing really well," Garris said. ". . . we're not looking to relax."

Said USC Coach Henry Bibby, "I think it is an evenly matched game between teams with similar styles. It should be one of the closer matchups [of the tournament]."

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