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Big bummer for Big Ten

Published Sep. 9, 2005

Ohio State falls to Utah State; Indiana out in first round again.

With just a few inconsequential seconds left in Thursday's NCAA East Region opener, senior forward Curtis Bobb faced the pocket of cheering Utah State fans and tugged at his jersey as if to show off the name.

Not just to them, but the rest of the college basketball world.

No. 12-seeded Utah State, forcing overtime on a dramatic last-second jumper by Tony Brown, pulled away behind Bobb's timely shooting to upset No. 5-seeded Ohio State 77-68 at the Greensboro Coliseum.

"We're just so glad we won this game and made a name for Utah State," Bobb said.

The Aggies (28-5) had lost nine straight NCAA Tournament games dating to 1970, a 30-year drought that coach Stew Morrill took no joy in reminding his players of before the game.

"It's huge for our school, it's huge for our league," Morrill said. "Our league hasn't won a first-round game since 1993 (New Mexico State beat Nebraska), so we were kind of carrying the whole league trying to get something special done here."

But even though most people may not know much about Utah State _ it's in Logan _ or its conference _ the Big West _ this group of Aggies knew it could make folks take notice.

Last season, they reached the NCAA Tournament and lost to defending national champion Connecticut 75-67. This season, they returned four starters and five seniors, including Bobb and point guard Bernard Rock (18 points).

Their experience proved to be the difference against the Buckeyes (20-11) when the game was on the line: OSU led 60-58 with 8.8 seconds left when Brown, a junior guard, got the ball on the right baseline and thought about a three-pointer.

Nope, not there.

"We told Tony, if you're open, shoot the three, but if not, you have to make something happen," Morrill said.

Brown drove into the lane, stopping just as OSU star senior center Ken Johnson, merely the Big Ten's all-time shot blocker, moved in his path ready to swat away his sixth shot.

Now what?

"I just figured once I got into the lane, if I pump-faked him enough times, he'd finally jump," Brown said calmly.

"He pump-faked a couple a times," Johnson said. "I went for his fakes and he just made a really difficult shot."

The Buckeyes still had 1.8 seconds and junior guard Brian Brown got free on the right sideline, took a long pass and launched a buzzer-beater from about 22 feet that hit the back iron.

"I thought it was going in," he lamented.

It didn't and Utah State dominated thereafter, thanks to Bobb, who hadn't scored until he hit a pair of three-pointers in the final five minutes of regulation.

"I wasn't playing like I'd been playing all season," Bobb said. "Everybody was telling me, "Keep your head up, keep your head up. It'll come, it'll come.' "

He scored the Aggies' first seven points in the overtime, culminating with a fastbreak dunk off a steal by senior forward Shawn Daniels. That latter play encapsulated the Buckeyes' day.

They committed 21 turnovers that led to 21 Utah State points. In contrast, the veteran Aggies had a season-low five turnovers that the Buckeyes parlayed into seven points.

"It's a disappointing loss, obviously, for us, but you have to give the world of credit to those guys," OSU coach Jim O'Brien said. "They played very, very well and, in my mind, the better team won today."

UCLA 61, HOFSTRA 48: The No. 4-seeded Bruins, surprisingly down 45-41, turned to their defense and didn't allow a field goal _ and just three free throws _ in the final 9:13.

"It was our will to win," said senior point guard Earl Watson, who finished with 15 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. "Our determination was challenged by Coach (Steve Lavin) and we just accepted it. The great thing about playing at UCLA is it prepares you for the first round of the tournament because no matter who you play, whether it's regular season or even an exhibition game, that team wants to beat you. So, mentally, you're already prepared and battle ready."

They sure needed that attitude and fortitude against No. 13-seeded Hofstra (26-5), which entered the game riding a nation-best 18-game winning streak.

Lavin called the Pride the Gonzaga of the East and, for the first 31 minutes, he seemed prophetic. But after senior forward Roberto Gittens scored to push the Hofstra lead to 45-41, the Pride missed its last 10 field-goal attempts.

"Last year, we were just happy to be in the tournament," Hofstra senior point guard Jason Hernandez said. "This year, we wanted to win. We had the confidence. We were prepared. We just ran into a great UCLA team."

DUKE 95, MONMOUTH 52: In case you were wondering, Blue Devils sophomore guard Jason Williams' left ankle is fine.

Williams, who twisted his ankle and sat out the final 13 minutes of the ACC tournament final on Sunday, hit his first four shots _ three three-pointers and a driving layup off a steal _ for a 14-1 lead 2:03 into the game.

In a decisive first half that saw the Blue Devils (30-4) lead 62-29, Williams hit 7 of 9 shots, including 6-of-8 from three-point range, for 20 points.

"The biggest thing for me to do tonight was just to play defense," he said. "I thought my ankle was fine. That's one thing about our team, we have a no-excuse rule. If I'm going to be out on the court, I'm going to be 100 percent, maybe not physically but mentally."

"I wasn't worried about him at all tonight because he's really practiced hard, so I knew he was ready," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Unless something unforeseen happened."

It nearly did. With 14:28 left in the blowout against No. 16-seed Monmouth (21-10), Williams fell after an acrobatic driving layup and had reserve center Matt Christensen come down on the side of his ankle.

"Jason kind of made a move that was his best move of the night and that was not to let his foot be pummeled by Matt," Krzyzewski said.

"I think I was more scared than anything," Williams said. "I'm okay."

Duke tied a school record and set an East Region record with 18 three pointers. (Seton Hall had 15 in an overtime win against Temple last season.) Williams' six threes gave him 115 this season, breaking the school record of 112 set by Trajan Langdon.

IOWA 69, CREIGHTON 56: Reggie Evans scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, including seven straight in a key span at Uniondale, N.Y.

Evans shot 13-of-15 from the free-throw line, including 12-for-13 in the last 10 minutes _ when the teams combined for just three field goals.

Evans said: "Some of the players with Creighton were like, "What's your free-throw percentage?' I said, "You don't even want to know.' " For the record, it's 62 percent. Thursday, it was 87 percent.

Duez Henderson added 16 points and Dean Oliver 15 for seventh-seeded Iowa, which went scoreless the first 5:32 of the second half before pulling out its fifth straight victory.

Ben Walker and Livan Pyfrom each scored 11 points to lead 10th-seeded Creighton, which shot just 33 percent and made only one field goal in the last 10:44.

With the score 49-49 with 7:54 left, Evans scored seven straight points and the Hawkeyes took a 56-49 lead with 3:14 remaining.

The game turned into a free-throw clinic from that point, with Iowa outshooting Creighton 13-5 to seal the victory.

"I wanted to win this game more than any one I've ever played. It's a nightmare," said Creighton's Kyle Korver, who shot 2 of 13 on three-pointers.

BC 68, SOUTHERN UTAH 65: Troy Bell scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half as Boston College survived a scare.

Bell, who shot 5-of-16 from the field, also had nine rebounds for the third-seeded Eagles, who have won eight in a row.

Jeff Monaco scored 26 points and Frederick House 21 for 14th-seeded Southern Utah, in its first NCAA Tournament.

The Thunderbirds had a chance to tie, but Justin Sant's three-point attempt hit the front of the rim to end the game and Southern Utah's seven-game winning streak.

KENTUCKY 72, HOLY CROSS 68: Consecutive three-pointers by Tayshaun Prince broke a second-half tie as UK held off Holy Cross.

Prince made two three-pointers inside of a minute to put the Wildcats in front, and scored 12 of his team's final 14 points.

"I knew they were falling as soon as I let them go," Prince said of the three-pointers.

Prince finished with 27 points, and Keith Bogans added 17. Jared Curry led Holy Cross with 16.

"I told Tay, "Man, we've got to pick it up," Bogans said. "That's exactly what he did. He made the big shots like he always does."

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.