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COLLEGE BASKETBALL NCAA TOURNAMENT | SOUTHEAST ROUNDUP

Arizona Ends Charleston's Dream

March 16, 1997|GEORGE DOHRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Senior Rodney Conner, his team having been eliminated from the NCAA tournament's Southeast Regional minutes earlier, performed an act so innocent it could have only come from a player used to obscurity.

After a brief press conference where Conner and his College of Charleston teammates proudly answered questions about their 73-69 loss to fourth-seeded Arizona at The Pyramid, Conner reached out and grabbed his name card and took it with him.

Just a plain white card. No NCAA label, no fancy script. But a souvenir nonetheless if you are one of the Cougars, whose fantasy run was stopped in the second round Saturday.

"The dream season has come to an end," said College of Charleston Coach John Kresse. "It's the saddest day in my 33 years of coaching. We lost because [Arizona] was too physical, big and gutty down to the end."

The 12th-seeded Cougars led by as many as ten early in the second half, and were tied, 60-60, with 3:21 left, but Mike Bibby made a three-point shot to put Arizona ahead for good.

College of Charleston cut a seven-point deficit to one with 20 seconds left. But after Miles Simon made one of two free throws, Jermel President's 12-foot runner was off the mark and Arizona advanced to the Sweet 16, where it faces No. 1 Kansas for the second consecutive year.

"We had them right where we wanted them," said Cougar Sedric Weber. "We needed one last comeback, and we couldn't get it done."

The loss broke the Cougars' 23-game winning streak, which was the longest in the nation. Arizona, meanwhile, gets an opportunity to avenge last year's 83-80 loss to Kansas in Denver.

"It's payback time," said guard Jason Terry. "They got away with one last year and we are just as good as we were last year."

Bennett Davison and A.J. Bramlett led a decisive 41-29 advantage for Arizona in rebounds. They combined for 26 rebounds, 15 offensive.

"Going into the game we thought getting double-digit rebounds from Bennett and A.J. was the key," said Arizona Coach Lute Olson.

Simon led Arizona with 20 points and Bibby had 18. Charleston's Stacy Harris scored a career-high 25 in his final college game.

Kansas 75, Purdue 61--It was a strange sight to see the top-seeded Jayhawks trailing in the second half, but a familiar sight followed as Kansas ended the game with a 23-8 run to eliminate the eighth-seeded Boilermakers.

Down, 53-52, after Chad Austin's jump shot with 9:58 remaining, Kansas' Jacque Vaughn made a three-point shot, Billy Thomas had two from beyond the arc and Paul Pierce had two tip-ins as the Jayhawks moved on to the Sweet 16 for the fifth consecutive year.

"To me the biggest factor in the game was that when we went down we didn't panic," said Kansas Coach Roy Williams, now 20-7 in eight NCAA tournament appearances. "Jacque hit the three-pointer and all of a sudden we got better on the defensive end."

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