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Stanford, California Suffer Bay Area Blues

Connecticut's Gordon, Okafor step up in 85-74 victory over Cardinal, which goes cold in the second half.

March 23, 2003|From Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun challenged his two best players at halftime to be more aggressive. Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor answered the call and sent the Huskies to the round of 16.

Gordon scored 18 of his 29 points in the second half, and Okafor dominated the rebounding to lead fifth-seeded Connecticut to an 85-74 victory over No. 4 Stanford in the South Regional on Saturday.

"We told Emeka, 'They're not taking the ball to you so you need to do something else, like rebound and score,' " Calhoun said. "I told Ben that he needed to take over offensively. I challenged him to get the ball in his hands and take over."

Gordon, who struggled to score 14 points in a poor-shooting opening victory over Brigham Young, made eight for 14 shots and all nine of his free throws. Okafor had 18 points and 15 rebounds, including six at the offensive end in the second half.

Connecticut (23-9) advances to the South Regional semifinals in San Antonio, where it will play the Texas-Purdue winner on Friday.

Julius Barnes scored 23 points, and Justin Davis bounced back from a scoreless first-round game with 21 for Stanford (24-9).

The Cardinal relied on its outside shooting, and the strategy worked in the first half when it made seven three-point baskets. But it was only one for seven on three-point attempts in the second half. "If we had continued to shoot the ball well, we could have stayed in there," Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery said.

Okafor blocked seven shots in the first round but had only one against Stanford -- he rejected Josh Childress on a fast break with 6:34 to go to protect a six-point lead.

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