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It's All Okey-Dokey for Wisconsin

January 24, 1999| From Staff and Wire Reports

Three years ago, Sam Okey was putting together a season at Wisconsin in which he would become the first Big Ten freshman to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocked shots.

Two years ago, Okey was helping Wisconsin to only the third NCAA tournament berth in its history.

A year ago, Okey wasn't playing basketball, having left Wisconsin after numerous run-ins with Coach Dick Bennett and a suspension for alleged drug and alcohol use.

Okey transferred to Iowa and became eligible for his senior season this week, playing his first home game for the No. 14-ranked Hawkeyes on Saturday night against No. 15 Wisconsin and Bennett. The Badgers won, 72-52, with Okey coming off the bench to score a modest eight points.

"The frustration was just too much for me to handle and the situation was too much for me to handle," Okey said at the time he left Wisconsin. "I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I'm ready for the healing process to begin. I need to refind my love for the game of basketball."

Or, as Bennett said at the time, "The book isn't over yet--Sam still gets to write the final chapter."

Part of that chapter will go down as Okey making two free throws in back-to-back one-and-one situations that brought the Hawkeyes, once down by 16 points, within seven at 44-39 early in the second half.

But the outside shooting of Jon Bryant, a transfer from Division II St. Cloud (Minn.) State, and Sean Mason and Ty Calderwood, former teammates of Okey's, proved too much for Iowa, 13-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten.

Bryant made six of 11 three-point shots en route to a game-high 22 points, Mason had 18 points, and Calderwood made a shot from beyond the arc that gave Wisconsin (18-3, 6-2) a double-digit lead at 51-40 that it didn't relinquish.

The Badgers also helped themselves by committing only eight turnovers against the Hawkeyes' full-court pressure.

"Wisconsin is very good. I was very impressed with their backcourt and the progress they've made," Iowa Coach Tom Davis said. "They may have the best backcourt in the league and their young inside guys are doing very well. It's no fluke that they came in here and did well against us."

No. 1 Connecticut 62, Seton Hall 47--Jim Calhoun became the winningest coach at Connecticut with his 287th victory, as the Huskies (17-0, 9-0) slowly pulled away from the Pirates (11-7, 5-4) in the second half of the Big East game at Storrs, Conn.

Calhoun passed Hugh Greer, who was 286-112 record in 17 seasons from 1946-63. Calhoun, in his 13th season at Connecticut, is 287-118. At Northeastern he was also the winningest coach with a 250-137 record.

Connecticut, coming off a 70-68 overtime victory on Wednesday at Miami, trailed 31-29 at halftime. But Richard Hamilton scored six of his 24 points in an 8-2 run that gave the Huskies the lead for good five minutes into the second half.

No. 5 Cincinnati 55, Saint Louis 44--The Bearcats (18-1, 6-1) had to overcome 18 turnovers, 36% shooting and their third-lowest scoring output of the season in the Conference USA game at Cincinnati.

Melvin Levett led Cincinnati with 20 points.

Saint Louis (9-10, 4-3) used a deliberate offense to stay close until the final three minutes, when it missed all three of its shots and had three turnovers. The Billikens finished with 24 turnovers.

No. 6 Auburn 73, Alabama 58--The Tigers (18-1, 6-1 in the Southeastern Conference), playing without suspended leading scorer and rebounder Chris Porter, won for the first time at Tuscaloosa, Ala., since 1985.

Porter was suspended Friday for three games for violating team rules.

Bryant Smith scored 17 points and had the final seven points of a 16-2 run that gave Auburn a 48-34 lead with 15:40. Alabama (12-8, 2-5) could not get closer than 11 points the rest of the game.

Freshman Mack McGadney, starting in place of Porter, scored 11 points on five-of-16 shooting, and had seven rebounds. Seven-foot junior Mamadou N'diaye broke Charles Barkley's school record for career blocked shots, getting three to raise his total to 148.

No. 7 Kentucky 76, Mississippi State 49--The Wildcats (17-4, 6-1) took a 15-point lead in the first eight minutes of the SEC game at Lexington, Ky., forcing 11 turnovers while holding the Bulldogs (13-7, 3-4) without a field goal in that time.

In trailing 37-14 at halftime, Mississippi State had as many turnovers as points.

Heshimu Evans led Kentucky with 13 points and freshman Desmond Allison had 11 in his first start, three days after he came off the bench to score 10 in Kentucky's victory over then-undefeated Auburn. Allison started in place of Scott Padgett, a key contributor in the Wildcats' NCAA championship run last season.

No. 10 North Carolina 52, Wake Forest 40--The Tar Heels (17-4, 5-2) held the Demon Deacons (11-9, 2-5) to their lowest point total since 1959 in the 197-game series between the Atlantic Coast Conference schools at Winston-Salem, N.C.

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