Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Memphis, South Carolina reach NIT final

The Associated Press

        NEW YORK — With less than a minute to play Tuesday night and the Tigers facing their second straight NIT semifinal loss, John Calipari told Dajuan Wagner: “Dajuan, make a play.”

        Wagner, who finished with 32 points, complied. He drove the lane and fed Kelly Wise for a dunk with 18.6 seconds left to put Memphis in the final with a 78-77 victory over Temple.

        “That was great coaching strategy,” Calipari said. “Give him the ball and get out of his way.”

        The Tigers (26-9) will play South Carolina, a 66-59 winner over Syracuse, in Thursday's title game.

        Temple, out of timeouts, took three shots at the end, two by David Hawkins and one by Kevin Lyde, but couldn't put away a game in which it erased deficits of 12 and six points.

        “I lost the game,” said Lyde, who scored 16 points. “I'm supposed to make that shot. I didn't.”

        Alex Wesby led the Owls with 25 points.

        The Owls (18-15) were without injured top scorer Lynn Greer, who averaged 23.2 points for them.

        In the second game, Aaron Lucas scored 20 points to lead South Carolina (22-14) into the NIT final for the first time. Jamel Bradley and Tony Kitchings added 13 points each for the Gamecocks, who outscored the Orangemen 40-30 in the second half.

        Preston Shumpert scored a game-high 28 points for Syracuse (23-12).

        The game began on an unusual note as both teams came onto the court at Madison Square Garden wearing white uniforms. Syracuse was supposed to be wearing its orange road uniforms, and a student manager, along with a police escort, was sent back to the team hotel to get them.

        At the first stoppage of play, 2:41 in and with the score 2-2, a media timeout was called and the Syracuse players changed their tops on the bench, keeping the white shorts.


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