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NCAA PREVIEW | ROUNDUP

Kentucky Takes Care of Business, 64-57

March 17, 2003|From Associated Press

Kentucky didn't bother to cut down the nets at the New Orleans Superdome after winning the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Wildcats plan to take care of that little matter in three weeks.

Tournament most valuable player Keith Bogans scored 22 points and second-ranked Kentucky extended its winning streak to 23 games, holding off Mississippi State, 64-57, in the title game Sunday.

After a weekend of upsets, the Wildcats will head into the NCAA tournament ranked No. 1 and are favored to win it.

Conveniently enough, the Final Four also is being held in New Orleans.

"They probably won't even turn in the keys from their rooms," Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said.

After the horn sounded, the Wildcats donned hats and shirts commemorating their 24th SEC tournament championship. Then, they gathered at midcourt to pick up a couple of trophies -- one for the team, one for Bogans.

The final part of the celebration was supposed to be the cutting of the nets. Superdome workers even stationed ladders under each basket. But the Wildcats didn't bother.

"Winning the championship here is special, but we don't want to cut the nets down twice," Bogans said. "We only want to cut down one set of nets."

A week of conference tournament upsets claimed most of the top 10, including No. 1 Arizona, No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Kansas.

Kentucky (29-3) hasn't lost since Dec. 28 -- an 18-point defeat to rival Louisville and former Wildcat coach Rick Pitino.

The Wildcats became the first team in 51 years to go undefeated in SEC play during the regular season and then win the conference tournament.

The last? Kentucky, which has won more league tournaments than the rest of the league combined.

This one wasn't easy. The Wildcats trailed at the half for the first time in more than two months and then clung to victory in the final two minutes.

Winsome Frazier made a three-point basket to bring Mississippi State (21-9) within 56-55 with 2:42 left, and the Bulldogs had a chance to go ahead when Mario Austin was fouled as he went up for an offensive rebound with 1:51 to go.

But Austin missed both free throws. He also was only three of 14 from the field and finished with nine points.

The Bulldogs' other key player, point guard Derrick Zimmerman, didn't fare much better. He made only three of 13 shots and had more turnovers (seven) than assists (five).

After Austin's missed free throws, Kentucky outscored the Bulldogs, 8-2, the rest of the way, beginning with Marquis Estill's lay-in with 1:24 left. Chuck Hayes and Bogans each made two free throws to seal the victory.

No. 12 Duke 84, North Carolina State 77 -- The Blue Devils keep producing Atlantic Coast Conference championships and future stars.

The 12th-ranked Blue Devils added a huge comeback to their record-setting run in the ACC tournament, getting 30 points from freshman J.J. Redick to beat the Wolfpack.

The Blue Devils appeared to be in trouble midway through the second half but rallied from a 15-point deficit. Redick had 23 points over the final 10:05, giving Duke its fifth consecutive ACC title.

The victory was Duke's 15th straight in the ACC postseason and gave Coach Mike Krzyzewski his eighth title in 12 tries. The Blue Devils improved to 24-6 heading into the NCAA tournament.

Redick's closing surge included four key three-point baskets. He also made two free throws with 12 seconds left and Duke holding a three-point lead.

North Carolina State (18-12) was hurt by foul trouble to Josh Powell and Julius Hodge. They picked up their fourth fouls within a minute of each other when the Wolfpack led, 55-40, with 11:44 left.

It was mostly downhill from there for the Wolfpack, which was trying to win its first ACC crown since 1987.

No. 13 Illinois 72, Ohio State 59 -- The Illini finally have their Big Ten title.

Using their superior size, speed and skill, the Illini won the Big Ten tournament -- and the conference's automatic NCAA bid -- with an easy victory.

Upset at finishing second to Wisconsin in the regular season, the Illini came to Chicago determined to prove they're the Big Ten's top team. They leave with their first tournament title in three tries and a hot streak they hope will carry them all the way to the Final Four.

The Illini (24-6) have now won eight of their last nine games, with that one loss by one point at Wisconsin.

Ohio State (17-14) was playing its fourth game in as many days, and its fatigue showed. The Buckeyes had trouble finishing their shots, going 20 for 55 (36%) from the field, and they were no match for the Illini inside.

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