V-RECAPS | NCAA Tournament — Elite Eight | Saturday, March 27
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EAST RUTHERFORD REGIONAL FILE
(2) Oklahoma State 64, (1) Saint Joseph's 62
What a fantastic contest -- it was amazing, like a heavyweight fight, with each team counterpunching and scrapping and clawing for everything. But in the end, Cowboys point guard John Lucas was the hero.
Lucas hit a big jumper in the final minute to give Oklahoma State a 61-59 lead before guard Pat Carroll hit a key 3-pointer for St. Joe's.
Brilliant Ride For St. Joe's
It was truly a phenomenal season for Saint Joseph's. I remember calling their first game of the season, a win at Madison Square Garden over Gonzaga in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
I remember seeing the infectious smile of senior maestro man Jameer Nelson and the enthusiasm he showed on the court that night in November. It was simply the start of something big: an unbeaten regular season. I was so impressed by the busloads of fans that came from Hawk Hill to attend that game. The fan support was awesome, baby!
The end of a great season came Saturday at the Meadowlands when Nelson's game-tying attempt glanced off the rim. Sure, the Hawks are disappointed with falling just short of the goal of making the Final Four. But the bottom line is, they have so much to be proud of.
Some people didn't give the Hawks the respect they deserved. These kids clearly deserved to be a top seed ... they poured their hearts and souls out on the court.
One bad performance against Xavier in the A-10 tourney shouldn't put any damper on their season. The same can be said for the tough loss against the Cowboys. Once the hurt goes away, St. Joe's will understand what a brilliant ride it really was. Nelson, Delonte West and Co. gave college basketball lots of thrills this season. --Dick Vitale
Then, in the final seconds, Lucas hit the 3-pointer that gave Oklahoma State a ticket to the Final Four in San Antonio.
St. Joe's had a phenomenal season, and it's a shame for the Hawks that it had to end with senior point guard Jameer Nelson falling short on a final jumper that would have tied the game.
Nelson, backcourt mate Delonte West and Co. gave it their all. The Hawks proved they deserved a No. 1 seed after an unbeaten regular season.
But thanks to Lucas' heroics, coach Eddie Sutton and the Cowboys were able to get to the winner's circle, overcoming some second-half shooting lapses (including a five-minute period without a field goal).
Lucas, the son of former Maryland guard and NBA star John Lucas, showed what a clutch player he is and proved he's one of the nation's premier transfers (coming to the Cowboys from Big 12 rival Baylor).
Lucas scored 19 points overall and, despite shooting just 3-of-12 on 3-pointers, came through with a 3 when his team needed it most.
Cowboys forward Joey Graham had a great game too, posting a double-double (11 rebounds, 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting).
Graham hit a key shot down the stretch and also recorded the assist on Lucas' game-winning shot.
Sutton is going to his third Final Four (second with Oklahoma State) -- he previously led the Cowboys there in 1995. Ironically that team's path also went through East Rutherford and the Meadowlands.
What a sensational season for coach Phil Martelli and St. Joe's. There's nothing wrong with posting a 30-2 record -- there are plenty of programs that would take that kind of success in a heartbeat!
Thanks for giving us a great season, coach Martelli and the Hawks. It was truly something special and you should be proud of all you accomplished!
PHOENIX REGIONAL FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87, (8) Alabama 71
Earlier this week, I told Connecticut fans to get ready to pack their bags for San Antonio. Now it's definitely time to plan that trip out West, baby! After a big win over Alabama, UConn is heading to the Final Four.
Coach Jim Calhoun's Huskies were so impressive against a pair of SEC opponents in the Phoenix Regional. First they beat Vanderbilt 73-53 on Thursday. Against Alabama on Saturday, it was an M&Mer, a total mismatch, as forward Rashad Anderson (28 points overall) and guard Ben Gordon (36) were unbelievable, hitting shot after shot in the first half to pace UConn to a 24-point halftime lead (53-29).
|UConn coach Jim Calhoun is saying goodbye to Phoenix, and he'll be saying hello to San Antonio ... and his second Final Four.|
The closest Alabama came in the second half was 14 points. Coach Mark Gottfried's Crimson Tide made a bit of a run late in the game -- a missed 3-point attempt with just over two minutes left would have cut the lead to 11 -- but UConn was never really in danger.
Center Emeka Okafor dominated inside while he was in the game, with five blocked shots and nine rebounds in only 19 minutes (due to injury). The Huskies must be concerned about his health after he hurt his right shoulder. Okafor said after the game that it wasn't too serious, and UConn fans hope he's right.
Okafor also missed time with back problems toward the end of the season and during the Big East tournament, but he has appeared healthy and played sensationally in the NCAA Tournament.
The bottom line is that Connecticut can beat you inside or outside. UConn's shooting on the perimeter was tremendous vs. Alabama (10-of-17 on 3-pointers). The Tide simply could not match UConn shot for shot, and the game was basically over at halftime.
I'm so impressed by UConn right now. The Huskies are playing their best basketball at the right time, with four straight double-figure wins in the NCAA tourney. They won the Big East tourney, and it has carried over into the NCAAs ... right to the Final Four. UConn is flying high into San Antonio, where coach Calhoun is aiming for his second national title.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.