Monday, March 24, 2003

Family follows its sons

NCAA notebook

The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - When it comes to making impressive drives at the NCAA tournament, it's hard to top the Cornette family.

With sons playing for Butler and Notre Dame at separate regionals, Joel Sr. and Christi Cornette decided they didn't want to miss a minute, even if it meant making an eight-hour drive each day.

"We kind of took it in stages, and it turned into this," Christi said Sunday.

They left their Cincinnati home on Thursday and drove two hours to Indianapolis, where they saw son Jordan and Notre Dame beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee that night.

Older son Joel, a Butler big man, then called.

"He asked, 'Are you coming?'" his dad said. "We said, 'What do you think?'"

So it was back into their SUV and, after sleeping four hours in a Kentucky hotel, they rolled into Birmingham to watch Joel help Butler beat Mississippi State on Friday night.

With hardly any rest, they hit the road for the trip to Indy, and made it in time to watch Notre Dame defeat Illinois on Saturday. Not finished yet, the Cornettes piled back into the car and, after a brief stop in Cincinnati to check on a younger son, they rolled into Alabama to see Butler upset Louisville 79-71 Sunday afternoon.

"How could we miss this?" Joel Sr. said. "It's been worth it, especially because we won four games."

Sitting four rows from the sideline, Joel Sr. tossed his Butler cap onto the court as the Bulldogs celebrated. He also wore a Butler jacket, with a Notre Dame shirt underneath, and hugged his crying wife after the win.

"It really meant a lot to have my parents here," Joel Jr. said. "And I want to congratulate my brother."

Only one problem with this whole thing: With Butler playing in the East Regional and Notre Dame in the West, it's going to get real tricky if the Cornettes want to keep watching both sons.

Notre Dame next plays Thursday night against Arizona in Anaheim, Calif. Butler plays Friday night against Oklahoma in Albany, N.Y.

"We're going to try," Joel Sr. said. "But this time, we're flying."

TUNING IN, TUNING OUT: Indiana coach Mike Davis criticized his players after their second-round loss to Pittsburgh for playing selfishly and listening to "outside influences ... telling them how good they are."

Praising the Panthers, who won 74-52 to advance to the round of 16, Davis said, "Not one guy on that team cares who scores. That's the point we need to get to as a team."

Indiana made the championship game last year as a fifth seed. This year, the Hoosiers started off 8-0, climbed as high as No. 8 in The Associated Press poll and were 14-3 before losing nine of their last 16 games.

Last year, "Everyone was talking bad about them," Davis said. "This year, we started off good. That's when everybody started talking to them.

"They get 10 phone calls a night saying they should play more, that it's my fault. They all think they're very, very, very good. They are a good team, but team is a key word and we need to play like a team."

RATINGS CONTINUE TO DROP: The tournament's ratings on CBS have dropped 23 percent from last year. Through three days of games, the overnight ratings - measuring viewership in the country's biggest markets - averaged 5.0, down from 6.5 over the same span in 2002.

Each overnight rating point represents about 735,000 homes. Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest TV markets in the United States, covering nearly 70 percent of the country.

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Family follows its sons
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