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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT | AT COLUMBUS, OHIO

Rattled Kentucky Overcomes Florida A&M

March 20, 2004|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Staying in the luxury hotel was an unexpected perk, and getting a police escort to the arena was another surprise for Florida A&M.

"I kind of felt like the president," Rattler guard Demarcus Wilkins said.

It would be tough to find a team that enjoyed its NCAA basketball tournament experience more than Florida A&M, which hated to see it end with a 96-76 loss Friday night to top-seeded Kentucky.

The Wildcats were relieved to be moving on. Gerald Fitch scored 26 points and Erik Daniels had 18 as Kentucky (27-4) advanced to the second round by holding off Florida A&M in the St. Louis Regional. Early on, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champions knew they had the Wildcats rattled.

"I [saw] it," said Terrence Woods, who led Florida A&M with 24 points but had only four after halftime. "I told our guys, 'Let's just keep it close.' And the longer we stayed in the game, the more rattled they got."

The Rattlers (15-17) were within 10, at 77-67, with 9:41 left before Kentucky began a 15-2 run.

Florida A&M's loss dropped No. 16-seeded teams to 0-80 since the tournament expanded in 1985.

When the horn sounded, Rattler Coach Mike Gillespie pumped his fist and screamed in the direction of the Rattlers' cheering section.

"We played about as well as we possibly could," he said. "Our guys believed we were going to win, and I felt we could too. But with 10 minutes to go, we just ran out of gas."

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