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Montana Eases Past Nevada

March 17, 2006|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY — It seemed a lot more like a Big Sky Conference game from years past than an NCAA tournament upset.

Montana and Nevada were Big Sky rivals from 1979 to 1992, but Thursday the 12th-seeded Grizzlies upset the fifth-seeded Wolf Pack, 87-79, in a first-round NCAA game in the Huntsman Center that Montana controlled so thoroughly that there wasn't even much jumping around when it was over.

"Our team isn't a team that goes and celebrates by hooting and hollering," Montana guard Kevin Criswell said.

Larry Krystkowiak, a former NBA player now known in Montana as "Coach K" after returning to his alma mater to coach last season, called it a game for the scrapbook.

"But right now, we don't break out the scrapbook. We are just trying to move forward from where we are," he said.

Nevada (27-6), the winner of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, brought a 14-game winning streak into the game. But the Wolf Pack never led, and trailed by as many as 16. The last time Nevada trimmed the lead to three was with six minutes left, but Montana answered with a 9-0 run.

Andrew Strait led Montana (24-6) with 22 points and seven assists, and three other players were in double figures.

Nevada's best player, Nick Fazekas, had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and he and Marcelus Kemp, who scored 34 points, combined for 58. But only three other players scored for the Wolf Pack.

"This is tough for us as a team," Fazekas said. "They kept switching defenses, and we couldn't ever get a really good rhythm, but we just missed a lot of shots that we usually make."

It was a sour end for Nevada, which last season upset Texas in the first round before losing to Illinois.

"The magic of March," Nevada Coach Mark Fox said. "This year, we're on the other side of it."

In games at Jacksonville, Fla.:

Wisconsin Milwaukee 82, Oklahoma 74 -- Pulling off their third major upset in two years, the 11th-seeded Panthers (22-8) got 24 points apiece from Joah Tucker and Boo Davis to knock off the sixth-seeded Sooners (20-9).

Tucker, one of the stars in Wisconsin Milwaukee's stunning run to the round of 16 last season, scored nine during a 23-7 surge that carried the Panthers to a 60-46 lead with just over seven minutes to go.

The closest Oklahoma got the rest of the way was six points. Terrell Everett led the Sooners with 21 points, but most of his production came after it was too late.

Florida 76, South Alabama 50 -- Lee Humphrey scored 20 points, including 12 on four three-pointers in the second half, and the third-seeded Gators (28-6) advanced in front of a partisan crowd.

Florida extended its winning streak to six games and will play Wisconsin Milwaukee on Saturday. Joakim Noah and Al Horford combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds and dominated inside, not surprising considering Florida's significant size advantage.

Leandro Buboltz led the 14th-seeded Jaguars (24-7) with 14 points, most of them coming on four three-pointers.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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