EDITOR'S NOTE: To get fans ready for first- and second-round Southeast Regional games at the ThunderDome, the Times is looking back at some of the NCAA Tournament's biggest first-round upsets since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
1991 East Regional
13 Penn State 74, 4 UCLA 69: None of Penn State's players had been around the last time the Nittany Lions qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Actually, none had even been born.
Penn State was a quarter-century removed from an NCAA appearance when it earned its way into the 1991 field by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament. It was Penn State's farewell to the league because the school was going independent in 1992 and joining the Big Ten the next season.
The Nittany Lions said goodbye in style.
Penn State was a No. 13 seed facing fourth-seeded UCLA at Syracuse's Carrier Dome. The Bruins (23-8) liked the looks of their bracket, figuring only North Carolina could keep them from reaching the Final Four.
But UCLA went in the tank in the second half when All-America forward Don MacLean got into foul trouble. In the five minutes MacLean sat on the bench with four fouls, the Bruins went from a 44-40 lead to a 53-48 deficit.
"It's just a shame that you work your whole life to get to this tournament and three guys (officials) take it away from you," MacLean said afterward.
Penn State's strategy was simple: Don't allow MacLean or fellow forward Tracy Murray to take control. The Nittany Lions (20-10) focused their defense on them and challenged the rest of the Bruins to pick up the slack. Nobody did.
"We've been trying to get respect ever since I've been here," said Penn State guard Monroe Brown, who had 10 points and 10 assists. "Even when we win games, we still don't get respect. Coming here, we thought if we can win, people will respect us."
That game stands as Penn State's highlight of the 1990s. The Nittany Lions lost the next game to Eastern Michigan _ an upset winner over Mississippi State in the first round _ and has not been back to the tournament since.
The Bruins were not comforted to find out they were right about the weakness of the East bracket. North Carolina reached the Final Four by beating seed Nos. 16, 9, 12 and 10.
"You never think about something like this, especially with the draw we had," MacLean said.
_ JOHN ROMANO