Poise Pays Some Big Dividends for Under-Pressure Cincinnati


Their game plan apparently disintegrating around them, the Cincinnati Bearcats gave a clinic in how to keep cool under fire.

With 14th-seeded Northern Arizona threatening to pull off the biggest upset of the day, D'Juan Baker patiently set up from behind the three-point line with four seconds to play and calmly sank a three-point basket, giving the Bearcats a 65-62 first-round victory in the NCAA tournament's West Regional on Thursday.

With the score tied, 62-62, forward Kenyon Martin set the screen that allowed Baker to get open. But it was center Bobby Brannen who drew much of Northern Arizona's defense away from Baker.

"The play was designed for Brannen coming across the middle," said Baker, who scored 13 points. "I was the second option and [Martin] set a good screen. I did not hesitate at all on the shot. I just shot it over him."

The ninth-ranked Bearcats (27-5) seemed stunned by the Lumberjacks' hustle and hot shooting earlier in the game. With most of the 12,154 at Boise State Pavilion pulling for Northern Arizona (21-8), which led, 31-26, at the half, Cincinnati held to its game plan.

That meant getting the ball inside to Brannen even when the Lumberjacks were hot from three-point range.

"Bobby has done that for us all year," Cincinnati Coach Bob Huggins said. "He's the guy we go to when things aren't going well. We give him the ball and he makes something good happen."

Brannen scored 18 of his 24 points in a second half in which Northern Arizona mostly clung to a narrow lead.

The Lumberjacks ran one screen after another, and even ran a weave at the top of the key several times that appeared to confuse the Bearcats. Sophomore guard Ross Land scored 13 points on five-for-10 shooting and made three of eight three-point baskets.

Northern Arizona also had a surprising presence inside in center Casey Frank. The 6-foot-9 junior scored 13 points and had five rebounds against the Bearcats' very athletic frontline.

But Frank couldn't prevent Cincinnati from gaining a 42-27 rebounding advantage.

"In a nutshell, what hurt us was rebounding," Northern Arizona Coach Ben Howland said.

Utah 85, San Francisco 68--The Utes' frontline towered over the Dons (19-11), who were without a player taller than 6-8, forcing one bad shot after another. Utah improved to 26-3.

Utah center Michael Doleac, a 6-11 senior, scored 19 second-half points and finished with 27 to lead the Utes.

Sophomore Hanno Mottola, a 6-10 forward, scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Doleac presented an imposing obstacle to the Dons' athletic but much smaller post players.

Hakeem Ward led the Dons with 17 points.

While the Dons shot only 41.5% from the field, they found more success away from the basket, making 42.9% of its three-point goals on nine-for-21 shooting. Reserve guard Jamal Cobbs was four of five from behind the arc and scored 16 points.

West Virginia 82, Temple 52--The Mountaineers had the necessary experience and patience to score against one of the toughest defenses in the nation, handing the Owls (21-9) their worst defeat in NCAA play.

West Virginia (23-8) was able to find the seams in Temple Coach John Chaney's multiple matchup zone defenses and their own pressing defense stymied the Owls on offense.

The Mountaineers were led by sophomore guard Jarrod West's 15 points. Temple shot 33.3% for the game, turned the ball over 11 times and were outrebounded, 46-24.

Arkansas 74, Nebraska 65--In the final three minutes the Razorbacks made nine of 10 free throws, including five of nine from forward Ali Thompson, to hold off the Cornhuskers.

Trailing, 40-33, at halftime and down by 10 points in the second half, Arkansas (24-8) rallied behind the defense and three-point shooting of Tarik Wallace, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, including three three-point baskets. The Razorbacks were led by junior guard Pat Bradley, who scored 19 points.

Junior guard Tyronn Lue had 18 points and six assists for Nebraska (20-12).

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