Arkansas Secures a Berth by Knocking Off Auburn

From Associated Press

Arkansas didn’t want to be remembered for a mediocre regular season. Not to worry.

Playing their fourth game in four days, the Razorbacks earned an improbable trip to the NCAA tournament by beating Auburn, 75-67, Sunday at Atlanta, winning the Southeastern Conference tournament and the league’s automatic bid.

Brandon Dean scored 22 points and Arkansas closed with a 14-5 spurt, making the Tigers appear to be the tired team when it should have been the other way around.

“We didn’t want to go down as one of the worst teams to come through Arkansas,” said Dean, referring to a 15-14 record in the regular season. “We wanted to do something special.”

This was special. Only one team, Auburn in 1985, had managed to win the SEC tournament with four wins in four days. Six other teams won their first three games but wilted in the finals.


Arkansas (19-14), knowing a loss would mean a trip to the National Invitation Tournament, seemed to conserve its energy in the first half against the Tigers, who led, 32-27, at halftime. But the Razorbacks turned up the heat in the second half.

Arkansas became only the sixth NCAA team to win four tournament games in four days--and the second of the weekend. Saint Louis won the Conference USA title Saturday similarly.

Auburn (23-9) advanced to the title game without Chris Porter, suspended by the NCAA for taking $2,500 from an agent’s middleman.

No. 7 Iowa State 70, No. 15 Oklahoma 58--The Cyclones, picked in most preseason polls to finish no higher than seventh in the Big 12, completed a season sweep by adding the conference tournament championship to their regular season title by beating the Sooners at Kansas City.

The Cyclones (29-4) had 14 more wins than last season, the biggest turnaround in school history.

Marcus Fizer scored 22 points and three surges from midway through the first half carried the Iowa State past Oklahoma (26-6). The Cyclones led, 35-25, at halftime.

No. 3 Duke 81, No. 20 Maryland 68--Jason Williams scored a season-high 23 points and fellow freshman Carlos Boozer had 21 as Blue Devils (27-4) beat the Terrapins (24-9) in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game at Charlotte, N.C.

Duke became the first program since North Carolina State in 1974 to win consecutive outright ACC regular season and tournament titles.

Juan Dixon led the second-seeded Terrapins with 19 points.

No. 5 Michigan State 76, No. 25 Illinois 61--A.J. Granger scored 17 points and Morris Peterson had 14 points, four rebounds and three steals, and Mateen Cleaves had 12 points and six assists at Chicago as the top-seeded Spartans beat the Illini in the Big Ten tournament title game for the second year in a row.

The Spartans (26-7) closed the first half with a 20-8 run.

Frank Williams led the fourth-seeded Illini (21-9) with 11 points.

Cory Bradford of Illinois was elbowed in the face with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first half. He returned in the second half but finished with only 10 points.

Around the Nation

Oregon State Coach Eddie Payne and his staff were dismissed after a fifth consecutive non-winning season. The Beavers, 13-16 overall and 5-13 in the Pacific 10, finished their season with an 83-65 loss against Oregon on Saturday night. In five seasons, Payne’s teams were 52-88 overall and 20-70 in the conference. . . . Kentucky starting guard Desmond Allison, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, has been suspended and is not expected to play again this season after his arrest on drunk driving charges in Lexington, Coach Tubby Smith announced. The suspension came on the same day Kentucky (22-9) received a fifth seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament. Allison played in all 31 games this season, averaging 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. If Allison is convicted of the charges, he will have to forfeit his scholarship. Athletic Director C.M. Newton adopted a strict policy after Kentucky football player Artie Steinmetz and an Eastern Kentucky student were killed in a 1998 accident involving alcohol. Jason Watts, the starting center on the football team, was the driver of the truck in which Steinmetz was riding.

Attorneys were working out final details on a five-year contract for Chicago Bull assistant Jim Wooldridge, 43, to become the coach at Kansas State, replacing Tom Asbury, formerly of Pepperdine, who resigned last week. Wooldridge comes highly recommended by Bull Coach Tom Floyd and former Bull assistant and current Laker assistant Tex Winter, who coached at Kansas State from 1954-68. . . . Robert J. Walsh, a Las Vegas lawyer registered with the NBA as a sports agent, was the agent involved in the case that cost Auburn’s Chris Porter his eligibility, the Birmingham News reported. Auburn officials determined middleman Nate Cebrun was working for Walsh when Cebrun wired $2,500 to Porter, the newspaper said.