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Salukis reap the rewards of winning

Southern Illinois' sudden success in the NCAA Tournament shook things up around campus in Carbondale.

Players became celebrities. Barbers who had shrugged off Kent Williams before couldn't wait to cut his hair. One of Jermaine Dearman's professors spent his entire class talking basketball.

And then there was Rolan Roberts.

A transfer from Virginia Tech, Roberts is a graduate student, somewhat removed from the daily fever on campus. "I take mostly night classes," he said. "I did get a few free CDs."

Then, realizing the NCAA has ears everywhere, Dearman piped up. "They tried to give them to him for free but he turned them down. He paid for them."

After a pause, Roberts quickly confirmed that.

WELCOME BACK, COACHES: The Carrier Dome has not been a friendly venue for Connecticut. The Huskies are 7-14 in the building on Syracuse's campus and coach Jim Calhoun routinely hears catcalls from Orange fans.

In the East Region, though, UConn practically is a home team, a Big East team playing in the building of one of its conference partners.

"I think it's the obligation of every citizen of Syracuse to rally around us," Calhoun said, tongue in cheek. "Don't boo me when I come out. Show them exactly the way we feel about our Syracuse."

Maryland's Gary Williams coached in the Dome with Boston College, beaten in one game on a halfcourt shot by Pearl Washington. "You had to bring that up," he said.

Williams also recalled having a cup of beer poured on him as he came on the floor for the start of a game. "They got me before I did anything," he said.

SEESAW SEASON: It was an up-and-down season for Kentucky (22-9). The Wildcats lost their opener by 12 points to Western Kentucky, then won nine of 10, a streak interrupted only by an overtime loss to Duke.

After that, though, there were two more OT losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee, two losses to Georgia, and blowout losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina. The loss to the Gamecocks, an NIT team, came in the first round of the SEC tournament.

"We lost five games by about 15 or 16 points and three in overtime," coach Tubby Smith said. "Had those close games gone our way, we would not be talking about the inconsistency this team has had."

"I've always felt in the NCAA Tournament, once it starts, you get a pretty good look at who is playing well and you throw out the records," Gary Williams said. "Kentucky had some different things happen during the year that you don't have to go through, and they've come into the tournament and are playing very well."

UCONN RECRUITS?: After taking care of business in the first two rounds, Connecticut made its way home, taking advantage of a semester break for a stopover in Baltimore.

"The NCAA said we had to go north and we did," Calhoun said. "We stopped at the Inner Harbor. We saw the dolphins. Those are guys who could really jump."

_ TIMES WIRES

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