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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT / AT BUFFALO, N.Y.

Nelson's 33 Carry Saint Joseph's

March 19, 2004|From Associated Press

Jameer Nelson followed his coach's instructions to perfection.

Nelson scored 22 of his season-high 33 points in the first half, leading top-seeded Saint Joseph's to an 82-63 victory over Liberty on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"I said to him, 'Today, this is what great players live for. Great players lead in this situation,' " Hawk Coach Phil Martelli said. "And he has an innate ability to understand what leading means.... That's why he's the best player in the country."

And because of it, the Hawks (28-1) advanced to play eighth-seeded Texas Tech on Saturday in the East Rutherford Regional. The Bob Knight-coached Red Raiders beat Charlotte, 76-73.

Saint Joseph's win ended what had been a tough stretch.

First, the Hawks' bid for a perfect season came to an end with an 87-67 loss to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals on March 11. And then came Sunday, when Martelli created a stir on national television, angrily responding to Billy Packer, a CBS analyst, who argued that the Hawks weren't worthy of a No. 1 seed.

Nelson waited until Thursday to provide an even more compelling response.

"The loss is over with," Nelson said. "I went out there and hit a couple of shots, and my teammates found me. It wasn't about me saying, 'I'm a star player and I'm going to take over.' "

The senior point guard put up the team's first nine points by hitting his first three attempts, including a three-pointer, and two free throws in building a 9-1 lead three minutes in.

How dominant was Nelson?

He was outscoring the Flames 18-16 before Liberty's Ryan Mantlo hit two free throws to cut Saint Joseph's lead to 38-18 with 4:13 left in the first half.

"We found out how good Jameer Nelson is," Flame Coach Randy Dunton said. "We'll be able to go home to Lynchburg and tell everyone how good he is."

Delonte West had 18 points and nine rebounds for Saint Joseph's. David Dees led the Flames (18-15) with 22 points.

The Hawks advanced to the second round for the 10th time in school history and first since 2001. It also was their largest margin of victory in 37 NCAA tournament games, topping a 65-48 victory over Providence in a 1966 first-round game.

Liberty, which won the Big South Conference title with an 89-44 win over High Point on March 6, was making only its second tournament appearance.

Texas Tech 76, Charlotte 73 -- For one day, Bob Knight found something to enjoy about Buffalo.

Senior Andre Emmett and freshman Jarrius Jackson each scored 11 points to lead a first-half surge and Texas Tech held off Charlotte in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The game turned out much better for Knight than his last trip here, when he lost to Pepperdine in his final game as coach of Indiana in 2000.

"I'm glad the outcome of this game replaces the outcome of the last game in Buffalo," Knight said after the 43rd tournament victory of his career, fourth all-time and one more than Lute Olson and Denny Crum. "I feel pleased for our kids to have the chance to go on."

Texas Tech (23-10), seeded eighth in the East Rutherford Regional, will play top-seeded Saint Joseph's in the second round. Saint Joseph's beat Liberty 82-63.

Charlotte (21-9), the ninth seed, never managed to get its up-tempo game going, shooting six of 24 from beyond the arc.

The game turned late in the first half. Jackson, a freshman guard, scored seven points during a 14-0 run that gave the Red Raiders a commanding lead.

Jackson ended the period by hitting a jumper just before the buzzer to put Tech up 39-25.

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