Friday, March 28, 2003

Syracuse-Auburn preview

Stopping star freshman key for Tigers

The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. - All eyes will be on Carmelo Anthony tonight.

The Syracuse freshman, who might bolt for the NBA after the season, is the focus of every defense he faces. This time, it's Auburn's turn in the NCAA Tournament's East Regional semifinals (9:40 p.m. ET).

"What makes him great is he can hurt you outside and in," Tigers coach Cliff Ellis said.

"You're not going to shut him out. You just have to do the best job you can containing him."

The 6-foot-8 Anthony, the Big East's freshman of the year, was the star of the open practice Thursday, drawing the biggest cheers from fans - whether it was for an outside shot or a power dunk.

He used plenty of those moves to average 22.2 points and 9.9 rebounds this season, scoring in double figures in every game for the third-seeded Orangemen (26-5).

Anthony was second in the nation among freshman in scoring, and No. 1 in rebounding. He has 19 double-doubles this season and led Syracuse in scoring 20 times.

Auburn's Derrick Bird probably will get the tough assignment of guarding Anthony. Bird, the Tigers' best defender, held Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Josh Howard to 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting in a second-round victory over Wake Forest.

"He's going to be tough to guard - anyone who can go inside and out and has size and strength is going to be," Bird said. "It's going to be a total team effort, not just me."

Anthony doesn't know much about Bird, other than hearing about his great defense.

"He'll come out and try to guard me hard and they will try to play a lot of team defense on me, so I'll have to get my team involved," Anthony said.

The 10th-seeded Tigers (22-11) are one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, especially for a team many people believed didn't deserve an at-large bid.

"The talk in regards to that should be over once you're in the Sweet 16," Ellis said.

Auburn has its own star in Marquis Daniels, the Southeastern Conference's Player of the Tear. The 6-6 senior swingman averaged 18.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season. He carried the Tigers in their first-round overtime victory against Saint Joseph's with 25 points, eight rebounds and a bunch of clutch baskets.

"He has led this team all season," Ellis said. "If you haven't seen him, you're in for a treat."

The winner advances to Sunday's regional final against the winner of tonight's game between Oklahoma and Butler.

Though Anthony said he doesn't think about leaving for the NBA after one season, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim does.

"I'm not sure how much better Carmelo is going to be next year, but I'd like to find out," he said.

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