Sunday, March 28, 1999

UCONN 64, OHIO STATE 58


Huskies' stars outshine Buckeyes'

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ultimately it came down to a showdown between the top two players on each team. Nobody else scored in double figures.

        Connecticut and its stars, Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, will play for the national championship Monday night.

        Ohio State and its stars, Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd, are left to ponder a season that restored pride in the Buckeyes' basketball program.

        It ended 64-58 Saturday night in the NCAA semifinals at Tropicana Field.

        “They're great ball players,” Redd said.

        Hamilton scored a game-high 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and El-Amin had 18 points and six assists.

        No other Huskie made a field goal in the final 11:48.

        “I thought our pride stepped up a little bit,” El-Amin said. “We felt threatened that a backcourt was going to outdo us.”

        Redd and Penn combine to average 36.8 points a game but totaled just 26 on a collective 10-of-31 shooting.

        “I wasn't on tonight, and I needed to be on for us to win the game,” said Redd, who scored 15. “I wasn't nervous. I was ready to play. I just couldn't find a groove on my jump shot. When me and Scoonie aren't clicking, it's pretty hard for this team to win.”

        The Buckeyes did not get much help from anyone else and shot 36.5 percent from the field.

        UConn (33-2), the top seed from the West, will face Duke for the title.

        As the No.4 seed from the South Regional making its first Final Four appearance since 1968, Ohio State finished its improbable turnaround from an 8-22 season with a record of 27-9.

        “You have to be realistic about where we are and what happened,” OSU coach Jim O'Brien said. “The disappointing thing is you get this far and don't win the whole thing. You just don't know when you're going to get that opportunity again.”

        The Buckeyes fell behind 51-41 with 11:48 remaining and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. Which they almost did.

        A couple key possessions at the end:

        • After OSU cut it to 57-54, El-Amin took the ball into traffic, hung in the air, pumped and sent in a soft jumper with 3:52 to go.

        • The Buckeyes pulled within 59-55 after Penn hit one of two free throws, then came the sequence that really hurt. UConn center Jake Voskuhl tried to pass the ball to El-Amin, who was guarded closely by Penn. The ball got loose, and Voskuhl tracked it down in front of the Huskies bench. El-Amin called time out.

        When play resumed, El-Amin ended up missing a running jumper, but Voskuhl grabbed the rebound. With the shot-clock buzzer sounding, Hamilton drained a jumper that made it 61-55 with 1:42 left.

        The possession lasted 71 seconds.

        “When I got the ball, they were trying to take away my three-point shot,” Hamilton said. “Scoonie Penn was on me. I'm 6-6 and he's 5-10. I tried to get as close to the basket as possible.”

        Ohio State had its chances. But its last field goal came with 4:16 remaining.

        “We didn't make any shots,” Penn said. “That was the difference.”

        It seemed Connecticut was about to seize control midway through the first half, when a 14-3 run put the Huskies ahead 32-23 with 7:19 left before intermission.

        Then UConn went close to 51/2 minutes without scoring, while the Buckeyes put 10 points on the board. They regained the lead on a steal and layup by Redd, but then Hamilton and El-Amin scored for the Huskies, who led 36-35 at the half.

        “We had them on the ropes two times,” El-Amin said, “but we never put them away.”

        Said Penn: “At times, it seemed like they were a little more hungry than we were.”

        The Buckeyes played good halfcourt defense. What hurt them was getting beat downcourt for transition baskets.

        UConn had only one three-point basket all night, and rarely got a great look at the hoop when it was forced to slow down and run its offense.

        But when the Huskies were able to get out and run, OSU couldn't keep up.

        “When we saw the opening, we just took it,” El-Amin said. “A lot of times we took the ball to the basket in transition when their defense had their backs to us.”

        “I think they're probably the best team in the country at turning mistakes and missed shots into easy layups,” Penn said. “After a while, it takes its toll on you.”

        “The pace was out of hand for us,” Redd said. “They ran the floor beautifully.”

        In the locker room afterward, the Buckeyes were disappointed but held their heads high. Even without having time to reflect, they knew that they had concluded a pretty special season.

        “We've really accomplished something great,” Penn said. “I think people will remember us as a team that kind of put Ohio State back on the map.”

Ohio State Stories
Face it: UConn was just better Paul Daugherty column
Hamilton stars at crucial times
OHIO STATE NOTEBOOK
MARCH MADNESS PAGE


OHIO ST (58)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Brown           21   2-8   1-2   0-2  2  1    5
Singleton       36   4-8   1-3   2-6  4  3    9
Johnson         30   3-8   0-0   3-5  0  1    6
Redd            37  7-18   1-2   5-8  3  2   15
Penn            40  3-13   3-5   2-5  4  3   11
Savovic         20   2-4   2-2   1-3  1  3    7
Reese           14   2-4   1-4   2-3  0  2    5
Coleman          2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 23-63  9-18 15-32 14 16   58
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.365, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals: 3-14, .214 (Brown 0-2, Redd 0-2, Penn 2-7, Savovic 1-3). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 6 (Johnson 3, Singleton 2, Savovic). Turnovers: 11 (Singleton 3, Redd 2, Brown, Coleman, Johnson, Penn, Reese, Savovic). Steals: 5 (Penn 2, Redd 2, Brown).

CONNECTICUT (64) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Hamilton 33 10-17 3-5 2-5 1 3 24 Freeman 29 2-4 1-1 2-7 0 3 5 Voskuhl 19 1-2 0-0 2-5 1 5 2 Ricky Moore 37 1-7 4-4 1-8 1 2 6 El-amin 34 8-15 2-2 0-1 6 1 18 Wane 8 0-2 0-0 0-4 0 2 0 Harrison 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Jones 8 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 4 Saunders 23 2-3 1-3 1-5 0 3 5 Mouring 5 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 26-55 11-15 8-35 9 21 64 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.473, FT-.733. 3-Point Goals: 1-6, .167 (Hamilton 1-3, Ricky Moore 0-2, El-amin 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 3 (Hamilton, Voskuhl, Saunders). Turnovers: 14 (El-amin 3, Freeman 3, Hamilton 3, Jones, Ricky Moore, Saunders, Voskuhl, Wane). Steals: 6 (El-amin 3, Jones, Ricky Moore, Voskuhl). __________________________________ Ohio St 35 23 - 58 Connecticut 36 28 - 64 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 41,340. Officials: Jim Burr, Larry Rose, Mark Whitehead.