March 23, 1996 in Sports

No Miss In Mississippi St. Hot-Shooting Bulldogs Upset Uconn, 60-55

Los Angeles Times
 

The fabulous fastbreak? Never happened. The frightening full-court pressure? Shredded. The last, desperate shot by the All-American guard? Wasn’t even close.

Everything that was grand about the top-seeded Connecticut Huskies’ near-perfect season was taken away Friday by an unlikely Mississippi State team with a chip on its shoulder and, suddenly, a hot run of wins.

After 4-1/2 months of overwhelmingly successful rapid-fire basketball, the flash-dancing Huskies got stuck in an awkward waltz, and could never escape.

Behind guard Darryl Wilson’s early blistering shooting (he finished with a game-high 27 points) and a defense that wouldn’t let UConn break loose, the Bulldogs moved on to the Southeast Region final against Cincinnati with a 60-55 semifinal victory at Rupp Arena.

“We just couldn’t get ourselves to accelerate the pace out there,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “In the early going, they were actually beating us down the floor.

“I’d like to play them in a series, but that’s not what we do here in the NCAAs. So we’re going home.”

Calhoun stressed he was proud of his team’s accomplishments, but said he was disappointed the team went out so mildly, and without seeming to even try to push the ball up the court. The Huskies did not score off their transition game.

“We didn’t go out the way we got in: running,” Calhoun said. “I was screaming at my players during the game, ‘Push it, push it, push it!’ Even if we didn’t get a basket, the pace would’ve changed.”

The Huskies (32-3) were held almost 30 points below their season average of 83.5, and their superb guard duo of Ray Allen and Doron Sheffer combined to make only 12 of 29 field-goal attempts, including Allen’s attempt to tie the game from 3-point distance with 12 seconds left.

Allen led UConn with 22 points, but was 3 for 14 in the second half.

“I think a lot of times, the notion of passing the ball was not in my mind,” said Allen, who had one assist. “The whole team did not pass the ball as well as we’ve done in the past.”

UConn not only started shooting cold, but was snowed under by five quick 3-point shots from the top of the key by Wilson, who had 17 points after only 11 minutes.

“A lot was written and said about the guard matchup, and I think my guards did a pretty good job tonight,” Bulldogs coach Richard Williams said. “Darryl came out and just hit shot after shot, and when Darryl’s shooting the ball like that, our players know that we want him to get him the ball as much as we can.”

After a slow regular-season start, in the last week and a half, fifth-seeded Mississippi State (25-7) has registered victories over Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament final, over Virginia Commonwealth and Princeton in the first two rounds of the Southeast Regional, and now, third-ranked Connecticut, the Big East champion.

“Who would’ve ever thought,” Wilson said with a huge smile, “that Mississippi State would be in the Elite Eight?”

MSU 60, UConn 55

MSU (25-7) - Wilson 9-14 2-2 27, Bullard 1-6 0-0 2, Walters 1-2 1-2 3, Dampier 6-15 3-4 15, D.Jones 6-16 1-2 13, Hughes 0-2 0-0 0, Hyche 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-56 7-10 60.

Connecticut (32-3) - King 4-9 0-0 8, Johnson 0-4 2-2 2, Knight 5-10 0-0 10, Sheffer 3-14 2-2 10, Allen 9-25 0-2 22, R.Jones 1-5 0-0 3, Hayward 0-0 0-0 0, Carson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-68 4-6 55.

Halftime-Mississippi St. 37, Connecticut 25. 3-Point goals-Mississippi St. 7-15 (Wilson 7-11, D.Jones 0-1, Hyche 0-1, Bullard 0-2), Connecticut 7-20 (Allen 4-10, Sheffer 2-7, R.Jones 1-2, Johnson 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Mississippi St. 35 (D.Jones 10), Connecticut 46 (Knight 13). Assists-Mississippi St. 14 (Bullard 6), Connecticut 11 (Sheffer 5). Total fouls-Mississippi St. 13, Connecticut 14. A-NA.

Cincinnati 87, Georgia Tech 70

The second-seeded Bearcats opened the game with a 13-2 run and stopped the third-seeded Yellow Jackets with unrelenting defense.

“We wanted to keep them in front of us, try to make every shot tough, no open looks, nothing cheap,” Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said.

He got what he wanted.

Georgia Tech, which relied all season on its perimeter trio of Drew Barry, Stephon Marbury and Matt Harpring, could never get going and shot 37 percent.

Marbury was 4 of 14 from the field, Harpring 6 of 14 and Barry 2 of 12.

Cincinnati expanded its 40-30 halftime lead with an 11-4 start to the second half. Each time, Georgia Tech (24-12) just kept misfiring.

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins said. “I kept waiting for us to get back in the game like we have all year and we never did. We never got our offense going, our passing going. Cincinnati is really physical.”

The Bearcats are also balanced. All five starters and one reserve reached double figures.

“Cincinnati took us out of our game and when the shots are not falling, you tend to force a lot,” said Barry, who did have eight assists. “It was a struggle for us, but credit Cincinnati, a great team.”

Damon Flint, who averaged 20 points in the Bearcats’ opening tournament wins over North Carolina-Greensboro and Temple, finished with 18 points, while Gregor, Danny Fortson, Art Long and reserve Darnell Burton each had 12 and LeGree added 11. Fortson grabbed 16 rebounds.

Georgia Tech (24-12) - Harpring 6-14 0-0 13, Maddox 4-7 2-2 13, Elisma 2-6 0-2 4, Barry 2-12 0-0 6, Marbury 4-13 6-8 15, Gaston 1-4 4-4 6, Saunders 3-6 0-0 7, J.Kelly 1-1 0-0 3, Brennan 0-1 0-0 0, Murphy 1-1 0-0 3, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, A.Kelly 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-65 12-16 70.

Cincinnati (28-4) - Gregor 4-8 3-4 12, Fortson 3-13 6-7 12, Long 4-12 4-4 12, Flint 7-14 1-3 18, Legree 4-4 3-6 11, Burton 5-7 0-0 12, Julson 2-5 2-2 6, Brannen 1-1 0-0 2, Levett 1-1 0-0 2, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Fletcher 0-0 0-0 0, Monroe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-65 19-26 87.

Halftime-Cincinnati 40, Georgia Tech 30. 3-Point goals-Georgia Tech 10-30 (Maddox 3-4, Barry 2-7, J.Kelly 1-1, Murphy 1-1, Saunders 1-3, Marbury 1-6, Harpring 1-6, Gaston 0-2), Cincinnati 6-13 (Flint 3-7, Burton 2-4, Gregor 1-2). Fouled out-Maddox. Rebounds- Georgia Tech 35 (Elisma 12), Cincinnati 49 (Fortson 16). Assists-Georgia Tech 14 (Barry 8), Cincinnati 16 (Legree 6). Total fouls-Georgia Tech 20, Cincinnati 17. A-23,890.

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