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Connecticut Doesn't Miss a Beat

March 12, 2004|From Associated Press

Connecticut handled not having its best player pretty well.

With Emeka Okafor on the bench in street clothes, the ninth-ranked Huskies got big efforts from three players to defeat Notre Dame, 66-58, Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament at New York.

"We knew we had to pick up the slack, and we got the job done," said Ben Gordon, who had 29 points. "We all knew we had talent. We just proved it to other people. The guys stepped up and made key contributions."

Freshmen Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueva had strong games on the boards for the second-seeded Huskies (25-6), who advanced to the semifinals for the ninth consecutive season. They will play Villanova today.

"You know, it's a real big thing," Boone said. "The last time we played Notre Dame the kid had 22 rebounds and 16 points. We really saw me and Charlie needed to step up tonight, and I think we did a good job of that."

Okafor, a 6-foot-10 junior, did not play because of back spasms related to a small stress fracture of the fifth lumbar vertebrae.

The Big East player of the year will be reevaluated today.

Okafor said he felt good and it will be a game-time decision today, but there is "no doubt I'll be ready for the NCAAs."

Okafor averages 18.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and a nation-leading 4.5 blocked shots a game.

Gordon is second in scoring with a 17.2 average, while Villanueva and Boone are second and third to Okafor in rebounding at 5.3 and 5.1, respectively.

Chris Thomas had 19 points for the Fighting Irish (17-12).

In other Big East games:

Pittsburgh (28-3) cruised to a 74-61 victory over Virginia Tech (15-14); Boston College (23-8) overcame an 11-point deficit and held on for a 57-54 victory over Syracuse (21-7); and Villanova (16-15) toppled Providence, 69-66. The Friars are 20-8.


Virginia (17-11) ended an eight-game tournament losing streak by defeating Clemson, 83-79, in overtime at Greensboro, N.C. Virginia, which advances to play Duke, hadn't won a tournament game since beating Georgia Tech in the 1995 quarterfinals. Vernon Hamilton scored 19 points to lead the Tigers (10-18).


At Dayton, Ohio, Carl Elliott and T.J. Thompson each scored 14 points to lead George Washington (18-10) to a 79-50 victory over Rhode Island (19-13). The Colonials will play Xavier, which upset No. 1 Saint Joseph's, in a semifinal today.

In the other bracket, Mike Skrocki scored 18 points as Richmond (20-11) rolled to a 64-49 victory over Temple (15-13). The Spiders will play host Dayton (23-7), which defeated Duquesne, 69-56. The Dukes finished 12-17.


Bracey Wright scored 20 points and A.J. Moye had 19 as Indiana (14-14) won for only the third time in 11 games with an 83-69 first-round victory over Ohio State (14-16) at Indianapolis. The Hoosiers will play Illinois in today's quarterfinals.

Minnesota (12-17) shot only 28% from the field but got a big game from freshman Kris Humphries to score a 63-52 victory over Purdue (17-13). Humphries finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Golden Gophers, who play Wisconsin today.

Vedran Vukusic scored 16 points and Northwestern (14-14) took advantage of 26 Penn State turnovers to defeat the Nittany Lions, 57-50. The Wildcats play Michigan State today. Penn State (9-19) lost its 11th in a row.

BIG 12

Jason Conley made consecutive three-point baskets during a 9-0 second-half run to help Missouri (16-12) defeat Texas A&M, 74-68, at Dallas. It was the last game for Aggie Coach Melvin Watkins, who announced his resignation at season's end on Wednesday. Texas A&M (7-21) has lost 19 conference games in a row. Missouri will play Kansas tonight.

Three-time defending tournament champion Oklahoma (19-9) rallied from a 13-point deficit and defeated Nebraska, 63-59. The Cornhuskers (16-12) lost in the first round of the tournament for the fifth season in a row. The Sooners will play Iowa State (17-11), which defeated Kansas State, 78-64. Freshman Curtis Stinson had 24 points for the Cyclones. The Wildcats finished 14-14.


Armein Kirkland's bank shot with 16 seconds left gave No. 13 Cincinnati (22-6) a 64-62 victory over Louisville (20-9) in a quarterfinal game at Cincinnati.

The Bearcats will play Saint Louis (18-11), which scored a 72-61 upset of Memphis (21-7).

In the other bracket, DePaul (20-8) won for the 10th time in its last 11 games with an 89-65 rout of Texas Christian (12-17). The Blue Devils will play Alabama Birmingham (20-8), which scored a 77-66 victory over Charlotte (21-8).


Nick Jacobson made seven three-point baskets and had 24 points to help Utah (22-8) hold off San Diego State, 75-69, in a quarterfinal at Denver. San Diego State (14-16) ended the season with four consecutive losses. The Utes will play Brigham Young (21-7), which held on for a 79-74 victory over Wyoming (11-17).

Regular-season champion Air Force (22-6) lost its 12th consecutive tournament game, a 60-48 defeat to Colorado State (13-15).


Georgia (16-12) broke to an 11-0 lead and cruised to a 73-59 victory over Auburn (14-14) at Atlanta. The Bulldogs play Kentucky today. Mike Boynton had 32 points to lead South Carolina (22-9) to a 91-81 victory over Arkansas (12-16). The Gamecocks play Louisiana State today.

Mississippi (13-15) was humbled by Vanderbilt, 70-50. The Commodores (20-8) play Mississippi State today.

Alabama (17-11) helped its NCAA cause with an 84-49 rout of Tennessee (15-13). The Crimson Tide plays Florida today.


Kirk Snyder had 22 points to lead Nevada (21-8) to a 75-60 victory over Southern Methodist (12-18) in a quarterfinal at Fresno. The Wolf Pack will play Rice (22-9), which defeated Hawaii, 70-68. The Rainbows are 19-11.

Texas El Paso (23-6) defeated Louisiana Tech, 62-55. The Bulldogs are 15-15. Boise State routed host Fresno State, 71-54.

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