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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT

A Back Seat for Football at Penn St.

South Regional: Nittany Lions suddenly emerge in basketball as seniors lead an 82-74 victory over No. 2-seeded North Carolina.

March 19, 2001|JOE SCHAD | ORLANDO SENTINEL

NEW ORLEANS — How sweet it is to have seniors.

Behind three senior starters, No. 7-seeded Penn State sent No. 2-seeded North Carolina home from the NCAA tournament with an 82-74 upset in the second round of the South Regional at the Superdome.

"I'm awfully proud of these three guys," said Penn State Coach Jerry Dunn, whose Nittany Lions were making to their first tournament appearance in five seasons. "We're in uncharted water as a basketball team right now. What an outstanding feeling."

Thus, Penn State--a college football powerhouse that didn't play in a bowl game this season for the first time in 11 years--will make its first round of 16 appearance since 1955 and face No. 11 Temple--a 75-54 winner over No. 3 Florida--Friday in Atlanta.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 20, 2001 Home Edition Sports Part D Page 3 Sports Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
College basketball--John Amaechi of the Orlando Magic and Calvin Booth of the Dallas Mavericks attended Penn State, contrary to a report Monday on Penn State athletes in the NBA.

Seniors Joe Crispin and Titus Ivory each scored 21 points and Gyasi Cline-Heard had 19 for Penn State (21-11). Ivory, who is from Charlotte, was never recruited by North Carolina.

"I can go home with my head held high," Ivory said.

Ivory did a masterful job of defending Tar Heel All-American Joseph Forte, who made only three of 13 shots and scored a career-low six points.

North Carolina (26-7) had won at least two NCAA tournament games in 17 of the past 20 seasons, but Penn State wasn't fazed by the Tar Heels' rich history.

"They were real physical," said Forte, who could announce a decision to make himself available for the NBA draft later this month. "When the lane was clogged up, it was clogged up for everybody on the perimeter. They played good help-team defense."

Said Cline-Heard: "We wanted to put a lot of pressure on their outside shooters because they knew they could really hurt us. Then we just hoped for the best in the lane."

Penn State held North Carolina to 37.5% shooting in the second half, including one for 11 from three-point range. The undersized Nittany Lions, who forced 22 turnovers, won despite being outrebounded 44-33.

North Carolina was led by Julius Peppers, who scored a career-high 21 points and had 10 rebounds. Center Brendan Haywood--North Carolina's lone senior starter--had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

The Tar Heels led 19-8 seven minutes into the game and were controlling the rebounding. Penn State didn't get an offensive rebound for the first 14 1/2 minutes of the game.

But after trailing 40-39 at halftime, the Nittany Lions opened the second half with a 16-6 run for a 55-46 lead with 13 minutes left. Penn State's ability to keep North Carolina from working the ball inside and force turnovers was the key.

"Before the game we knew we had an advantage inside," Haywood said. "We wanted to go to it."

Ivory made a three-point shot for a 69-68 lead with four minutes remaining, and Penn State never trailed again.

Said North Carolina Coach Matt Doherty: "It was a frustrating game. They had 28 points off turnovers and that hurt. I don't know if I'll ever watch the tape. You can't turn the ball over 22 times and expect to win the game."

Penn State has never won a conference championship, never had an All-American, and has no current players in the NBA.

"I don't have a sense of the history," Crispin said. "I expected us to win that game. I know this is a great win, but we want to keep going."

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