BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- No one could stop Khalid El-Amin. His
injury, however, could stop Connecticut.
El-Amin limped off the court with a sprained right ankle Friday
after leading the defending NCAA champions to a 75-67 victory over
Utah State on Friday in the opening round of the South Regional.
X-rays were negative, and at first it was thought that the star point guard would not Saturday.However, El-Amin said Saturday that he was feeling better and that he would test the ankle in practice. The Huskies next play Sunday against
"It hurts right now, but hopefully I can be ready," El-Amin
said after Friday's game. "I did not get hit. I turned to pivot and drive, but I heard
"My intentions are to play on Sunday. I'm aiming for that. But
if I can't go, then I can't go."
With El-Amin in charge, the Huskies had little trouble snapping
Utah State's 19-game winning streak.
But he hurt himself while driving with four minutes left and
Connecticut safely ahead. El-Amin returned a minute later with the
ankle taped, then limped off again.
"They could have isolated me and done what they wanted because
I couldn't guard nobody," he said.
Said coach Jim Calhoun: "We have roughly 48 hours to hope he
gets better. It might balloon up."
Trainer Joe Sharpe seemed optimistic.
"The prognosis is looking really good," he said.
The fifth-seeded Huskies (25-9) never trailed, building a
15-point lead late in the first half. Utah State (28-6) scored the
first eight points of the second half to pull within two, but
El-Amin hit a 3-pointer and set up Albert Mouring's three-point
El-Amin and Mouring each had 14 points and Kevin Freeman added
13. The Huskies improved to 9-0 in first-round games under Calhoun.
They advanced to play fourth-seeded Tennessee, a 63-58 winner over
"I could see the confidence in guys' eyes," Freeman said.
"You can't get nervous down the stretch. You just have to rely on
the confidence we have from being here before."
No defending champion has lost in the opening round since UCLA
in 1996 and the Huskies made sure it did not happen to them,
sending Utah State to its ninth straight loss in NCAA tournament
Troy Rolle had 18 points and Shawn Daniels 17 for the Aggies.
Utah State had been perfect in the Big West, but could not match
up in its first-ever meeting with taller, faster Big East opponent.
"The experience they gained last year really helped them,"
Daniels said. "They just have been able to grind a lot of games
"It was great to go 19 games without a loss. You can't knock
that, it's just too bad it could be extended to 20," he said.
The Huskies held a 37-22 edge on the boards and, except for a
short time early in the second half, were never threatened. Ajou
Deng and Edmund Sanders each had eight rebounds for the winner.
Calhoun had it pretty easy, rarely having to shout.
Occasionally, he urged El-Amin to hurry up, but the Connecticut
defense solved most everything Utah State tried -- an Aggies
assistant held up signs that said "Motion" and "Thumb Down" to
El-Amin, who starred as Connecticut marched to an NCAA title
capped by a 77-74 win over Duke last season, energized the Huskies
with three baskets, including a 3-pointer midway through the first
Edmund Saunders later made a steal and threw a behind-the-back
pass to Freeman, whose slam dunk made it 31-16 and caused Utah
State to call a timeout.
It was 39-29 at the break, and then the Aggies made their run at
the start of the second half. The Huskies had an answer, however,
and their fast hands and longer arms allowed them to pull away.
|El-Amin heard "something pop" in his right ankle.||
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El-Amin hobbles into practice, hopes to play Sunday
Jim Calhoun discusses El-Amin's ankle injury.
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