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Inside the games

The Spokesman-Review

Striking 12

The upsets just keep on coming for No. 12 seeds.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee beat Alabama 83-73 on Thursday, the 16th time in the last 17 years at least one 12th-seeded team won a first-round game in the NCAA tournament.

It was the 24th time a 12 beat a 5 since that run began in 1989. The only year the seven-line upset didn’t happen since then was 2000.

It was the 27th such upset since the field went to 64 teams in 1985; the only other year a 12 didn’t get at least one was 1988.

Last year, Pacific beat Providence and Manhattan defeated Florida in 12-5 matchups.

The other three 12-5 games are today: Villanova-New Mexico; Michigan State-Old Dominion; and Georgia Tech-George Washington.

Thursday was Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s day.

The Panthers shot 52 percent from the field against an Alabama team that held opponents to 34 percent shooting this season. They also forced Alabama into 19 turnovers, seven more than its average.

“We expected this,” Wisconsin-Milwaukee forward Joah Tucker said. “It wasn’t a big surprise for us.”

The Panthers lost 70-69 to Notre Dame as a No. 12 seed in 2003.

Alabama was one of the surprises of last year’s tournament, making a run to the regional final that included a win over top-ranked and top-seeded Stanford in the second round.

But that was last year, when the Crimson Tide started as a much safer No. 8 seed.

“Last year it seemed the sun was shining on us pretty good,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “Today, we just didn’t play that well.”

Close one

Washington took a lot of heat over its No. 1 ranking since the field was announced last Sunday.

The Huskies didn’t exactly shut up the doubters with an 88-77 victory over Montana in the first round.

No top seed has lost to a No. 16 and the closest any came last season was 19 points, Saint Joseph’s margin of victory over Liberty.

The closest a 16th seed has come are the one-point losses by Princeton to Georgetown and East Tennessee State to Oklahoma, both in 1989.

Top-ranked Illinois had just a 32-31 halftime lead over Fairleigh Dickinson. The Illini went one point better than Washington, beating the Knights 67-55.

Paul’s back

Chris Paul was back and Wake Forest won.

The preseason player of the year returned from his one-game suspension with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Demon Deacons beat Chattanooga 70-54.

The sophomore guard was suspended after punching North Carolina State’s Julius Hodge in the groin during the final regular-season game.

Paul missed Wake Forest’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal against North Carolina State, a loss many feel cost the Demon Deacons a No. 1 seeding.

“With him, it’s like we’re one big happy family again,” center Eric Williams said. “It’s like the puzzle is complete.”

Streaks meet

The two longest winning streaks in Division I met in the first round and the longer one is over.

Gonzaga beat Winthrop 74-64 for its 13th consecutive victory. The Eagles had won their last 18 straight.

Winthrop had one streak extended as it dropped to 0-5 all-time in the NCAA tournament, all since 1999.

3-pointers abound

West Virginia and Creighton came into their game among the best teams in the country from beyond the 3-point line.

West Virginia averaged 8.9 3-pointers per game and the Bluejays made 8.6 per game.

So their first-round game was decided by – what else? — a dunk.

Tyrone Sally’s dunk with 2 seconds left gave the Mountaineers a 63-61 victory, but it wasn’t decided until Nate Funk’s 3-point attempt missed at the buzzer.

To prove the most exciting game of the opening round was average, each team hit 8 of 20 from long range.

What Big East?

Pacific has to hope the Big East is looking for a West Coast member.

The eighth-seeded Tigers beat Pittsburgh 79-71, the second year in a row they defeated a team from the Big East in the first round.

Last year, Pacific beat Providence 66-58 in the opening round as a 12th seed.

“Being here last year and knowing what it takes to get a victory definitely helped this team,” said Big West player of the year David Doubley, who had 17 points against the Panthers. “Hopefully it will help us in the next round on Saturday.”

Pacific, which lost to Kansas 78-63 in the second round in 2004, will play top-seeded Washington on Saturday.

Associated Press

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