Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Iowa 62, Valparaiso 60

By Todd Dvorak
The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Chauncey Leslie wanted the last shot and so did Valparaiso. The Crusaders just couldn't do anything to stop him.

With Iowa down 60-59 and 30 seconds to go, Leslie got the ball on the wing, knifed to the paint and banged into an opponent before pulling up and firing the game-winning basket off the glass.

Valparaiso's Stalin Ortiz missed a shot from the baseline and the rebound bounced off the hands of a teammate and out of bounds. Iowa's Jeff Horner then made one of two free throws, and the Hawkeyes (16-13) advanced to next week's second round of the NIT with a 62-60 victory Monday night.

"Of course I want the ball as a senior," said Leslie, who had 15 points and five assists.

Steve Alford praised Leslie for showing the kind of leadership that has been absent in several close games down the stretch this season.

"That's what a senior has got to do. He stepped it up in a big game," Alford said.

The first-ever meeting between the teams was a seesaw struggle throughout. Valparaiso built an 11-point lead early in the opening half, but neither team enjoyed a double-digit lead the rest of the way. In the second half alone, the teams had three ties and 10 lead changes in the final 14 minutes.

Valparaiso (20-11) took a 60-59 lead when Antti Nikkila followed a missed shot underneath with 30.9 seconds to go. During the ensuing timeout, Valparaiso coach Scott Drew schemed to stop every scoring option but Leslie's off-balance heroics.

"We just didn't have anyone who could keep up with Leslie," Drew said. "The shot that he made, if you ask me going into that timeout that this is the shot he's going to shoot to win the game, I would have said, 'All right, let's see if he makes it.' "

Iowa got 11 points each from Jared Reiner, Sean Sonderleiter and Brody Boyd. Reiner, who also had 10 rebounds, was held scoreless until 6:14 remained, when he gave Iowa a 54-52 lead.

Iowa shot 50 percent and outrebounded the Crusaders 34-26.

Ortiz led Valparaiso (20-11) with 14 points and four steals. Miguel Ali Berdiel added 13 points as the Crusaders shot 46.3 percent from the floor, but just 21.4 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

The toughest part of the loss was that it was the last game for six seniors who had helped the Crusaders get to three NCAA tournaments in the last four years, Drew said.

"They didn't want to put up the uniform, didn't want it to be their last game," Drew said. "We got a lot of heart and effort out there from them. Iowa just won the game."

Iowa led 32-29 at the break and stretched it to five points in the opening minutes of the second half, when Leslie scored on a baseline drive.

But Joaquim Gomes, who had just two points in the opening half, tied it at 36 by scoring seven straight points in a 1:14 span.

The lead traded hands five times in the next five minutes before Greg Tonagel hit a long jumper to put Valparaiso up 44-43 with 12:39 to go.

Minutes later, Ortiz hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to extend the lead to 50-45, the Crusaders' largest of the second half.

But Iowa, led by Leslie, went on a 12-2 run that put the Hawkeyes up 57-52 with 5:02 to go. Leslie hit a 3-pointer, then split four defenders on a fast break during that stretch.

"It was two teams that mirrored one another in how hard they compete," Alford said. "You just had two guys just punching each other and punching each other, and nobody dropped. It was just a great college basketball game."

The Hawkeyes could play in-state rival Iowa State next week if the Cyclones beat Wichita State in their first-round game Wednesday.

Special NCAA hoops section; Bracket contest

It's more than a Bearcats game
No. 24 Arkansas thinking big
UC out to prove naysayers wrong
Varsity Village gets $10M from Fifth Third

Xavier now the hunted

No. 1 ranking increases ante for UK to win it all
Norse win on putback

March Madness could be delayed by war
Pressure and expectations smother winning coaches
Ohio State suspends Williams
BYU's no-Sunday stance could cause NCAA shuffle
Little Mo leads underdog Bulldogs vs. Sooners
Blue Devils to stick with perimeter lineup
Gators need answers quickly
Bobby Knight's son applies for Wright State job
Spirit of Valvano lifts Whittenburg
Tigers learn of bid while on 12-hour bus ride
Asheville gets a whiff of the bigtime

NIT: Iowa 62, Valparaiso 60
UCLA fires Lavin