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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Final Four on line

Texas Tech, Duke to clash in regional final

March 31, 2003

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— Alana Beard has received all the attention for Duke this season.

But Iciss Tillis and Mistie Bass helped the Blue Devils reach the Midwest Regional final.

The 6-foot-4 Tillis scored 21 points in Duke's 66-63 win over Georgia in the semifinals. Bass scored 10 straight points during a 31¼2 minute stretch in the second half that gave Duke the lead for good.

Tillis, who spends as much time outside the three-point line as underneath the basket, hit nine of 16 shots and was 3-for-6 on three-pointers. Top-seed Duke (34-1) next plays No. 2 seed Texas Tech (29-5) tonight for a chance to go to the Final Four.

"I'm just an odd person, what can I say," Tillis said of her penchant for three-pointers. "Ever since I started playing, I've loved to shoot the three."

Both players also have interesting backgrounds.

Tillis' father is former heavyweight boxer James "Quick" Tillis, who 17 years ago became the first boxer to go the distance against Mike Tyson. Tillis lost the 10-round decision.

Bass is the daughter of '60s rock 'n' roll recording star Chubby Checker. The 6-3 Bass said her father knows very little about basketball, but talks to her almost daily during the NCAA Tournament.

"He says it's exciting and not good for his health," Bass said.

Bass started playing basketball in fourth grade. Being the second tallest kid in the class helped. She went on to star at Parker High School in Janesville, Wis., then chose Duke over Tennessee.

Duke has struggled on offense throughout the tournament. The Blue Devils shot 41 percent against Georgia and the 66 points was the most they scored in three tournament wins.

Even Beard, who averaged 22 points a game during the season, never got going Saturday and scored just 12 points. She sprained her ankle after the Blue Devils' first round win over Georgia State and played tentatively against Georgia.

"It's not a big deal," Beard said Sunday. "We won, didn't we?"

Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said it's only a matter of time before Duke has a breakout game.

"I just hope it's not tomorrow night," Sharp said.

Texas Tech cruised into the regional title game with a 71-48 win over New Mexico. The Red Raiders dominated the Lobos with their quickness and defense, silencing the sellout partisan New Mexico crowd of 16,182.

Tillis will go against Tech center Plenette Pierson, who had 16 points and eight rebounds against New Mexico. Pierson prefers to work closer to the basket, but will spend much time outside on defense because of Tillis.

"Iciss gives them a whole different look because she prefers to stay around the three-point line rather than get down around the block," Sharp said. "She's going to stretch our defense."

But Sharp said it could be reserves like Bass or Tech's Casey Jackson -- who had nine points and 11 rebounds against New Mexico -- that decide tonight's game.

"In these games the great players may neutralize each other and it's some of those other players that step up and make plays to give you a chance to win," she said. "I would expect that to happen from both sides."

A win would put Duke in the Final Four for the third time in five years. Texas Tech's only previous trip to the Final Four was in 1993, when it won the national title.

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