Tennessee-Chattanooga coach Mack McCarthy knew all about slow starts in the NCAA Tournament.
And early, predictable exits.
"Certainly, that wasn't a problem today," he said with a sly grin.
His underdog Mocs burst to a stunning 20-2 lead, then held off No.
3-seeded Georgia 73-70 in the opening round of the Southeast Regional on Friday at the Charlotte Coliseum.
The Mocs, the champions of the unheralded Southern Conference, became the 11th No. 14 seed to win since the NCAA field was expanded to 64 teams.
"With this win, hopefully, we can get some respect now," said senior guard Willie Young, who scored a game-high 24 points, including five in the waning moments to preserve the win.
The Mocs were 1-7 in the NCAA before the game, and in their last NCAA appearance, in 1995, they fell behind powerhouse Connecticut 18-0 and never threatened.
This time the Mocs (23-10), who play Illinois on Sunday in a bid to join Cleveland State as the only No.
14 seeds to reach the Sweet 16, came out as if they were the higher seed and were supposed to win.
Forward Johnny Taylor hit a baseline jumper, guard Wes Moore followed with a three-pointer, and Taylor added two free throws.
After a stickback by center Chris Mims, Taylor hit a three, then saw a dunk attempt bounce off the rim but straight down and through to set up a three-point play. His free throw made it 15-0 with 2:58 gone.
"We were running on high emotion," Taylor said. "We really wanted to come out and have a good start against this team."
The lead reached 20-2 moments later and several times swelled to as many as 20 points before the Mocs took a 46-31 advantage into the locker room.
"We dug ourselves a hole the early part of the game," said Georgia guard Ray Harrison, who had 14 points. "We didn't get back into it until the second half, and then it was too late."
Not quite. The Bulldogs (24-9), who despite losing all five starters from last season's club surged to No.
17 in the final Associated Press poll, still had time to avoid the upset. A pair of free throws by forward Larry Brown cut the deficit to 67-65 with 1:51 left.
With Taylor fouled out, the Mocs turned to senior guard Willie Young.
As his four teammates drew their defenders along the baseline, Young went one-on-one against Harrison, spun by him and hit a leaner as Harrison fouled him. The free throw pushed the lead to 70-65 with 1:31 remaining.
"I could see the lane open up, and I just took it," said Young, who had a game-high 24 points. "I feel I'm quick enough to get by just about anybody."
Georgia center Lorenzo Hall drew a foul, made the first free throw and tapped his errant second attempt to Harrison, who followed with a three-pointer that brought Georgia within 70-69.
Again, Young took the ball at the key, sent his teammates to the baseline, darted down the middle and put up a running one-hander.
"When you get to this level, you've got to have a guy who can create his own shot," Georgia coach Tubby Smith said. "Willie Young has the ability to get you in the air and create a shot."
After both teams added a free throw, the Bulldogs had a chance to tie and 10.4 seconds to do it. But center Chris Mims pressured Georgia point guard G.G. Smith, the coach's son, all the way to midcourt and forced a timeout with 2.7 seconds left.
Smith got the ball in the left corner and had a good look, but center Marquis Collier, a standout at Jacksonville Raines High and Brevard Community College, jumped over and deflected the shot to seal the win.
"They were just in my face," Smith said.
"We certainly knew we had to withstand some plays," McCarthy said. "But I never really thought about losing the game. I felt this bunch would find a way to win."
DUKE 71, MURRAY STATE 68: Guard Jeff Capel hit four three-pointers to key a 16-2 run in the opening moments of the second half that allowed the Blue Devils to take control.
But Murray State (20-10), which features two of the nation's top scorers in forward Vincent Rainey and guard DeTeri Mayes, stayed close.
Duke (24-8) didn't seal the win, Mike Krzyzewski's 400th at the school, until guard Steve Wojciechowski made a free throw and a desperation heave from Rainey hit the backboard and bounced off.
ILLINOIS 90, USC 77: Illini guard Kiwane Garris scored 10 of his game-high 27 points, all from the free-throw line, after Southern California rallied to tie the score with five minutes left.
"In my years here, it seems every time we have a lead a halftime, we ended up giving up the lead," said Garris, who added 12 assists. "But this preseason, we got it together and said we're not going to lose a game that way."
The Trojans (17-11), who have dramatically reversed their fortunes under coach Henry Bibby after a ninth-place finish in the Pac-10 a year ago, trailed 46-31 at the half but tied the score at 69.
That's when Illinois first-year coach Lon Kruger, who guided Florida to the Final Four in 1994, emphatically told his players what they had to do.
"I said, "This is a NCAA game, and the tougher group will win,'
" he said.
"Today wasn't our day," Bibby said. "You have those kind of days in basketball. Illinois was a better team than we were today. They had more intensity, stuck to their game plan and did what they had to do."
Illinois (22-9), ranked No.
19, earned its first NCAA win since 1993.
PROVIDENCE 81, MARQUETTE 59: Senior forward Austin Croshere scored a career-high 39 points, including a 70-footer at the buzzer that capped a 37-13 run to give the Friars a 50-32 lead halftime lead.
The Friars (22-11), who had not won an NCAA Tournament game since Rick Pitino's three-point shooting specialists reached the 1987 Final Four, shot a remarkable 76.9 percent in the decisive half.
Marquette (22-9), the Conference USA tournament champion, was second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (35.7).
"We couldn't have played any better than we did in the first half," Providence coach Pete Gillen said. "We had that touch. We just believed in ourselves."
Marquette coach Mike Deane, angered when Anthony Pieper was scratched by his left eye and no foul was called, received two technicals and was ejected with 4:20 left.
Deane told Pieper not to comment on the incident and refused to say anything himself.