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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Irvine, Pepperdine Start on Road

NIT: Anteaters travel to Tulsa and Waves journey to Wyoming in first round.

March 14, 2001|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A team from Southern California that is used to playing at this time of the year and another that isn't will have their hands full today in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

UC Irvine, making only its third postseason appearance--all in the NIT--opens at 5 p.m. PST at Tulsa.

Pepperdine, making its third consecutive postseason appearance and sixth in the NIT, tips off at 6 p.m. PST at Wyoming.

The NIT began Tuesday with Memphis (18-14) and Alabama (22-10) winning.

The Tigers (18-14), led by Earl Barron's 18 points, defeated Utah (21-11), 71-62, at Salt Lake City.

The Crimson Tide (22-10), behind 22 points from Rod Grizzard and Travis Stinnett, scored an 85-79 victory over Seton Hall (16-15) at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Other games tonight include South Carolina (15-14) at Connecticut (19-11), North Carolina Wilmington (19-10) at Dayton (19-12), St. Bonaventure (18-11) at Pittsburgh (18-13) and Southern Mississippi (22-8) at Mississippi State (16-12).

South Alabama (22-10) plays Toledo (21-10) on Thursday and West Virginia (17-11) is at Richmond (21-6) Friday.

The players at Pepperdine (21-8) and Irvine (25-4), which has the best overall record in the tournament, could turn out to be first-round window dressing.

Tulsa (21-11) has averaged near sellouts this season at its 3-year-old, 8,300-seat Reynolds Center, where the Golden Hurricane went 13-2 this season.

"It will be a loud and boisterous crowd, you can be sure," Irvine Coach Pat Douglass said. "It will be good for our kids to play in that kind of atmosphere, to get the experience."

Wyoming's 8,000-seat Arena-Auditorium is known as the Dome of Doom because of its altitude (7,220 feet) and Wyoming's rabid following. It's not only difficult for flatlanders like the Waves to catch their breath, it's tough to hear. The Cowboys (20-9) have lost only one home game this season.

"Wyoming is a talented ball club and they will be a difficult team to beat on the road," Pepperdine Coach Jan van Breda Kolff said.

Wyoming is led by sophomore guard Marcus Bailey, who averages 17.6 points a game. Junior forward Josh Davis averages 13.3 points and 9.4 rebounds, and sophomore center Uche Nsonwu-Amadi averages 11 points.

The Waves, who forced opponents into 19 turnovers a game, figure to press the Cowboys at some point, but they have to careful not to tire themselves in the thin air.

"Our style of play is difficult to prepare for in a short time period," Van Breda Kolff said.

Pepperdine is led by junior guard Brandon Armstrong, who averages 21.7 points.

Tulsa is quick and fast, but does not have a lot of height.

"They will try to get up and down the court," Irvine Coach Douglass said. "They really get out on you with their transition game."

Tulsa sophomore Kevin Johnson is a 6-7 center who averages 13.4 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Irvine guard Jerry Green led the Big West Conference in scoring with a 19.2-point average.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NIT Schedule

The Southland men's and women's team playing in the National Invitation Tournament. All times PST:

MEN

* UC IRVINE: Tonight, 5 at Tulsa.

* PEPPERDINE: Tonight, 6 at

Wyoming.

*

WOMEN

* PEPPERDINE: Thursday, at Arizona (McKale Center in Tucson), 6 p.m.

* LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: Thursday, vs. Nevada Las Vegas, 7 p.m., Gersten Pavilion.

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