Wednesday, March 19, 2003

NIT: Prodigal Georgetown wins opener

The Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Georgetown coach Craig Esherick was glad he accepted a bid to the National Invitation Tournament this year. A year after declining an invitation, Mike Sweetney had 17 points and 14 rebounds and Ashanti Cook scored a career-high 16 points as the Hoyas beat Tennessee 70-60 in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.

Georgetown rejected the bid last year because school officials said they didn't want to travel very far or have the players miss more classes. Esherick had campaigned hard for an NCAA berth but didn't get one, and the decision to shun the NIT caused a stir.

"I accepted the invitation last year originally when we first were told who we were going to play, and actually put a tape of the team in my briefcase and was getting ready to leave the office," he said. "I should have left the office and maybe I wouldn't have gotten into the public relations difficulties I got into. But I don't want to revisit that.

"But I'm very glad were playing the NIT and I wish we had been able to play in the NIT last year."

The Hoyas (16-14) used a 12-1 run to begin the second half to take the lead and kept the Volunteers (17-12) from rallying.

Gerald Riley added 15 points and Victor Samrick had 11 for Georgetown, which advances to a second-round game next week. The date and opponent has yet to be determined.

Ron Slay, the Southeastern Conference's player of the year, finished his career at Tennessee with 17 points.

"I told Ron, 'I appreciate everything you've done for the University of Tennessee and the men's basketball program,"' Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "I said, 'Son, you've had a tremendous career and a tremendous year coming off the knee injury. Don't let this one game disappoint you."'

Thaydeus Holden added 12, Brandon Crump had 11 and C.J. Watson 10 for the Vols, who felt snubbed by the NCAA selection committee because they had a 9-7 SEC record. Alabama made the tournament with the same overall record and a 7-9 SEC mark.

Tennessee's Elgrace Wilborn added six blocks and 11 rebounds.

"I've been in that position where you don't make the NCAA tournament and you think that you should have been in the tournament or thought you had a real good chance of making the tournament. Then as they say, your bubble has burst," Esherick said. "That was a tough game I'm sure for them."

The Vols led 29-26 after Holden's basket to begin the second half, but Cook hit a 3-point shot and Sweetney scored to start the spurt. Samrick's basket capped it and gave the Hoyas a 38-30 lead with 16:36 remaining.

Tennessee couldn't get its offense going. The Vols were able to cut the lead to three points on three occasions in the second half but couldn't get closer.

The last came after Crump followed a Georgetown turnover with a fast-break dunk with 6:44 left to cut it to 54-51.

Slay then left the game because of cramps in his right calf, and Georgetown took advantage. Sweetney scored and Riley hit a 3 to push the lead back to eight with five minutes to go.

Slay returned after two minutes on the sidelines but couldn't jump-start the Vols.

"Both teams were a little bit sloppy at first, and we had way too many turnovers in the game," Peterson said. "It reminded me of the way we were playing in November."

Tennessee led by as many as five in the first half, but Cook scored every point in a 9-0 run to give Georgetown the lead with 3:59 remaining.

The Vols have been off balance since losing senior guard Jon Higgins, who was ruled academically ineligible for the postseason on March 10. Tennessee had 19 turnovers.

North Carolina 83, DePaul 72

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - David Noel scored a season-high 21 points and Rashad McCants added 19 as North Carolina shot 64 percent in the second half.

The Tar Heels (18-15), playing in the NIT for the first time in 29 years, overcame a dismal final eight minutes of the first half to advance to play the winner of the Wyoming-Eastern Michigan game, which was postponed until Thursday because of a snow storm.

Noel, a 6-foot-6 freshman, was 10-for-13 from the field and added a season-high 11 rebounds.

North Carolina's trapping defense changed the game in the opening stages of the second half, fueling a 16-3 run in the first three minutes.

Sam Hoskin led DePaul with 24 points, while Andre Brown had 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Siena 74, Villanova 59

ALBANY, N.Y. - Siena wore down undermanned Villanova with 3-point shooting by Austin Andrews and Tommy Mitchell and pressure defense for a 74-59 victory in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.

Siena (20-10) will play the winner of a first-round game Wednesday between Illinois-Chicago and Western Michigan.

Again with only seven players available because of suspensions, Villanova led by as many as 10 points in the first half and was still even at 42 with 12:15 to play.

But Andrews hit a 3-pointer, Mitchell two free throws and Andrews another 3-pointer to put Siena up 50-42. After a free throw by Curtis Sumpter, Siena's Prosper Karangwa hit another 3-pointer to put the Saints ahead by 10.

Villanova never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Temple 68, Drexel 59

PHILADELPHIA - Alex Wesby had 20 points and nine rebounds as Temple defeated its local rival. Despite the fact that the teams are located six miles apart, they had not met since the NCAA tournament in 1994.

Brian Polk and Maurice Collins each had 11 points and David Hawkins scored 10 points for the Owls (16-15), who have won nine of 11 and will play Boston College in the next round.

Kenell Sanchez had 16 points for the Dragons (19-12).

Boston College 90, Fairfield 78

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Troy Bell scored 28 points for Boston College. The Eagles (19-11), who advanced to play Temple, also got 19 points from Craig Smith and 18 points from Jermaine Watson.

Nick Delfico scored 14 points and Terrence Todd added 13 points for Fairfield (19-12), which was attempting to end a 30-year victory drought in the postseason. The Stags' last win came in the 1973 NIT, when they defeated Marshall.

The Eagles shot 54 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Stags 39-32.

Boston College improved to 16-10 in the NIT, including 9-1 in first-round games.

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