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BIG WEST MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Parker's Steal Helps Northridge Advance

March 12, 2004|Eric Stephens, Paul McLeod

Suspensions to two of Cal State Northridge's leading players gave reserves such as Antoine Parker valuable minutes throughout the season. On Thursday night, that experience paid big dividends at the Big West Conference tournament.

Parker made a steal in the backcourt and drove for a layup to give the Matadors the lead with 35.7 seconds left and Northridge held on for a 61-58 upset of UC Santa Barbara in a quarterfinal at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Parker's steal came after Santa Barbara guard Jacoby Atako tripped over Thomas Shewmake's foot as he broke to receive an inbounds pass. The sophomore point guard went to the basket and laid it in over two Gaucho defenders.

"Being without Joe [Frazier] and Chris [Davis] for about half the season, Antoine had to play," Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell said. "Those guys got valuable playing time that they might not have necessarily got if these guys had been with us."

Casey Cook missed a jumper to regain the lead and Northridge's Ian Boylan got the ball and was fouled. Boylan made two free throws to send the Matadors (13-15) into a semifinal matchup tonight against top-seeded Utah State.

"I did imagine this," Boylan said. "This wasn't out of the question at all."

Northridge's bench came through with Boylan and Davin White sitting with four fouls midway through the second half. The Matadors cut a 10-point lead to two on three-pointers by Terrell Jones and Parker sandwiched around a layup by Chris Davis.

"What can you say about Antoine Parker," Braswell said. "He's been up and down, up and down. He may have hit the two biggest shots tonight."

Santa Barbara Coach Bob Williams said the run was damaging.

"I think it was lost there," Williams said. "They were on the ropes. Frazier did a great job of creating some things and they hit two open threes."

Frazier led Northridge with 19 points. His offensive rebound and putback with 53.7 seconds left pulled the Matadors to within 58-57. It was the 14th offensive rebound for the Matadors.

"There was no play bigger than their missed shot and Frazier's rebound and the putback," Williams said. "That's as big a play in the game. Our big [men] get a rebound and we've got a three-point lead and the ball."

Eric Stephens

*

Idaho 66, UC Riverside 58 -- The Vandals, 9-2 when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, put away the Highlanders for the third time this season and face second-seeded Pacific in tonight's 8:30 semifinal.

Idaho (14-15) opened the quarterfinal as it had each of its games during the second half of the season.

After starting the year 3-9, the Vandals turned things around to finish in fourth place in the regular-season standings when players bought into Coach Leonard Perry's physical trapping defensive pressure.

The Vandals shut down Riverside's passing lanes, while Highlander shooters and rebounders found the going tough in the key. Riverside (11-17), making its first appearance in the tournament since moving up to Division I three years ago, made 10 of 25 shots in the first 20 minutes and turned the ball over 10 times in that span.

Idaho, which won on the road for the fourth time in 15 tries, wasn't bad offensively in the first few minutes when it established control of the game.

The Vandals made eight of their first 12 field goals and held a 23-11 lead after a three-point play by forward Tyrone Hayes with 11:14 to play in the first half.

But Riverside never quit. It lost center Vili Morton for a key portion of the second half with his fourth foul.

A three-point shot by Rickey Porter with 3:35 to go cut Idaho's lead to 56-52, but Riverside, which made 15 of 27 free throws, failed to convert at the line several times as the game wound down and Idaho made eight consecutive free throws to close the game.

-- Paul McLeod

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