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Archive for Monday, March 25, 2002

Final Four features Williams vs. Williams in semifinal

March 25, 2002

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If everything worked out according to the brackets designed by the NCAA basketball selection committee, there would be four top-seeded teams headed to next weekend's Final Four.

In some regions it does, which is why Kansas and Maryland will meet in one national semifinal next Saturday at Atlanta.

In others it doesn't, which is why Oklahoma and Indiana will play in the other.

No. 1-seeded Kansas and Maryland completed the Final Four on Sunday. The Jayhawks eliminated second-seeded Oregon, 104-86, to win the Midwest Regional, and the Terrapins held off No. 2 Connecticut, 90-82, in the East.

No. 5 Indiana won the South on Saturday, topping Kent State, 81-69, and No. 2 Oklahoma captured the West by advancing with an 81-75 victory over No. 12 Missouri.

The intrigue in the matchup of No. 1s begins with the coaches, both named Williams, both trying to win a first national championship.

Maryland's Gary Williams took the Terps to the Final Four a year ago before losing in the semifinals against Duke, which went on to win the championship.

Roy Williams has taken Kansas to two previous Final Fours, losing to eventual champion North Carolina in the 1993 semifinals, and to Duke in the 1991 championship game.

Both have seasoned, focused teams.

Kansas has the highest scoring team in the country and complements that with a strong inside game. Typical was the rout of overmatched Oregon.

Drew Gooden and Nick Collison each had double-doubles by early in the second half, and the Jayhawks outrebounded the Ducks 63-34. Kansas had 26 offensive rebounds, leading to 31 second-chance points.

Gooden had 18 points and 20 rebounds, and Collison added 25 points and 15 rebounds as the Jayhawks (33-3) simply wore down the Ducks.

Maryland (30-4) had all it could handle from Connecticut. But in the end, the Terps used the senior savvy of Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon and one key shot by Steve Blake to prevail.

Indiana made sure the Final Four would have a new look when the Hoosiers defeated defending champion Duke in the South semifinals. That made the matchup against Kent State almost anticlimactic, but coach Mike Davis' team did not let down.

Indiana (24-11) hit 15 of 19 three-point attempts and opened a 20-point lead that Kent State could not overcome. The victory was costly, though. Tom Coverdale turned his left ankle and was in a wheelchair for the net-cutting ceremony. His availability is questionable.

Oklahoma (31-4) used the pinpoint shooting of Hollis Price and Ebi Ere to defeat Missouri and extend the nation's longest winning streak to 12 games. Price had 18 points, Ere 17.

It was an emotional victory for Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson, whose father had brain surgery last week.

"You can never imagine the exact way you'll achieve a dream like this, but I'm pretty happy with the way it happened," Sampson said. "Our kids have come to play. If we play well, we'll have a chance to win."

For Oklahoma, it will be the first trip to the Final Four since 1988.

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