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First Win a Good Sign for Stanford

March 19, 2004|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — A little bit of history was made in Stanford's first-round NCAA tournament appearance Thursday.

No, a 16th-seeded team still has never beaten a No. 1, though Texas San Antonio gave it a run -- for a while.

But for the first time in his life, Josh Childress was asked for an autograph by an opposing cheerleader.

"I don't know what to say," Childress said. "I can't say that has happened before."

Childress was that good, scoring 26 points and adding nine rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in the Cardinal's 71-45 victory.

Still, with 12 minutes to go, the crowd of 15,512 in KeyArena was rocking.

Some of them smelled upset: Stanford's lead was only six.

"I'm sure CBS was zooming in on our game," center Rob Little said. "People love an upset."

The aptly nicknamed Roadrunners (19-14) were speedy and played hard, grabbing 22 rebounds from Stanford on the offensive boards.

When John Millsap scored on a tip-in to cut Stanford's lead to 44-38 with 12:15 left, it looked like nervous time.

"I think ... we told each other to keep our heads, keep our poise," guard Matt Lottich said. "We knew it would come back to us. The only way it wouldn't was if we got frantic or got scared."

Childress, the silky 6-foot-8 swingman, took over. He fed Little for a dunk, then made back-to-back three-point baskets with his slightly unorthodox shot, and the lead was 14.

Stanford (30-1) stepped up its defense and continued on a 14-0 run for a 58-38 lead.

"It was feeling really good, we had the crowd into it, the coach on the other side was yelling at them and trying to get them organized," Roadrunner guard David President said.

"There was definitely a lot of noise, but they overcame that adversity and came out with the victory."

Survive and advance. Say, maybe that cheerleader who approached Childress as he waited to do a TV interview after the game was looking for a phone number. After all, the Cardinal might be in San Antonio for the Final Four.

"It was definitely an autograph," Childress said. "Girls are on the back burner for now."

Alabama 65, Southern Illinois 64 -- Coach Mark Gottfried and the Alabama Crimson Tide got their "upset."

Alabama survived a comeback by Southern Illinois when Darren Brooks missed a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer in a first-round NCAA tournament game at KeyArena.

Alabama's Antoine Pettway had given the Tide the lead with only five seconds left on a runner in the lane -- eight seconds after the Salukis' Brooks had driven for a go-ahead basket with 13 seconds left.

Alabama (18-12) led by 10 at halftime, but Southern Illinois made eight of 12 three-point shots in the second half to make it close.

It was a classic No. 8-vs.-No. 9 game, the margin between the teams slim.

Gottfried -- whose father, Joe, once coached at Southern Illinois -- had contended before the game that eighth-seeded Alabama was actually the underdog.

"They're ranked 23rd in the country, and we're not," he said.

Brooks was terrific for Southern Illinois (25-5). He finished with 25 points and was five for five from three-point range.

"I'm telling you, Brooks would be a great player in the SEC," Gottfried said.

But it was Pettway who made the big shot -- his third clutch shot of the season. And he finished with only six points on Thursday.

He had a game-winning three-point basket at Georgia, and his three-point basket against Arkansas tied the score and forced overtime before the Tide went on to win.

"I don't know if we've got anybody on the team we'd rather take that shot," said Earnest Shelton, who led Alabama with 18 points.

Gottfried had a timeout left after Southern Illinois went ahead by one, but he preferred not to let the Saluki defense get set.

"We've been in this type of situation before," Pettway said. "[Kennedy Winston] found me and I pump-faked and shot a little runner."

Saluki center Sylvester Willis tried to stop the shot but couldn't.

"He just floated it up there as high as he could," Willis said. "I hit the ground and looked up and it went in the net. Just like a dagger."

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