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USD Wins 20th Game of Season : Little-Used Haupt Provides Key Plays in Victory at Home

As usual, the University of San Diego won a basketball game at home Saturday night, defeating St. Mary’s, 54-42, in front of 2,450 fans in the USD Sports Center.

As usual, the Toreros’ 7-foot center, Scott Thompson, was the key figure in the victory, scoring 13 points--nine in the second half--and sweeping the boards for a game-high 10 rebounds.

And, as usual, USD’s defense, third best in the country in limiting the opposition’s field-goal percentage, was superb, allowing St. Mary’s to shoot 42% from the field.

Now, for something unusual:

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Some of the game’s most important plays were provided by USD’s Mike Haupt, a backup guard who has spent most of the season on the sidelines because of a back injury.

Haupt contributed 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and some important plays on defense to help USD win for the 22nd time in its last 23 home games and improve to 10-1 in the West Coast Athletic Conference. The Toreros can clinch their first regular-season conference championship since 1984 by defeating second-place Gonzaga (8-3 in the WCAC) at home Thursday night.

That Haupt should play an important part in USD’s 10th straight victory was indeed a surprise, considering that he’s played in only seven games this season and is averaging only a little more than two minutes of playing time a game.

“We’ve been told that, because of his back injury, we’re only to use him when it’s absolutely necessary,” USD Coach Hank Egan said.

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It was necessary Saturday night. With eight minutes left, St. Mary’s (5-6, 14-11) was in contention, trailing, 43-37, when Egan summoned Haupt.

Haupt, as usual, was there stretching his back muscles in the hope that he would play. “I’ve stopped trying to figure out when they’re going to use me,” Haupt said.

He immediately made his presence felt, drawing an offensive foul against St. Mary’s Paul Robertson at the top of the key. Haupt was stretched out, not allowing Robertson to pass the ball when Robertson caught Haupt with an elbow in the face.

“I guess I just lead with my face on defense,” Haupt said.

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USD took possession and Haupt led Nils Madden with a perfect pass underneath, only Madden missed an easy stuff shot. The next time down, however, Haupt again went inside to Madden, who this time hit a short jumper to improve USD’s lead to 45-37.

The next time USD had the ball, Haupt was there again, grabbing an offensive rebound and drawing a foul underneath. He hit two free throws to put USD up, 47-37, with 3:06 remaining.

From there, USD controlled the ball and the clock and put away its 20th victory of the season (against four losses), the first time the Toreros have won that many since going Division I in 1979.

“Haupt definitely picked us up,” Egan said.

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The Toreros needed some of that on a night when both teams’ tough defense made it difficult to score. USD led, 29-20, at halftime and improved its margin to 34-22 with 16:10 left.

But St. Mary’s went on an 11-0 run during the next 4 minutes 30 seconds to pull within 34-33.

All along, Egan was thinking about calling a timeout to stop the run, but he held off.

“It was either call a timeout to stop the momentum or call one to make sure panic hadn’t set in on our side,” Egan said. “I decided that it was best for us to try and weather it without the timeout.”

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It turned out to be a good decision. USD went inside to Thompson its next two times down court and he contributed to baskets to restore USD’s lead to five, 38-33. Steve Krallman scored inside moments later and then Marty Munn hit a three-point field goal to put USD ahead, 43-35.


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