Steve Alford was back in the NCAA tournament Friday for the first time in 12 years, and once again, he put on a record show.
"This is a great, great feat for our school," Alford said after his Southwest Missouri State Bears held Wisconsin to 12 first-half points and went on to a 43-32 victory in the opening round of the East Regional on Friday.
Wisconsin's scoring output was the lowest by any team in a first- or second-round game in the history of the tournament. It also was the lowest output in any NCAA tourney game since the introduction of the shot clock in 1986.
"I'm very embarrassed," said Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett, whose Badgers wound up with their lowest point total since 1948-49 and their lowest output ever in nine NCAA tournament games.
Alford led Indiana to the 1987 NCAA championship by hitting a then-Final Four record seven 3-pointers in the title game against Syracuse. Now in his fourth year at Southwest Missouri State, Alford has molded the Bears into one of the best defensive teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"I was an offensive player. I wasn't going to set any records defensively," he said. "I think it kind of goes full circle. I think when you get into coaching, you probably have a little bit more emphasis on maybe what you didn't do real well as a player."
His team's latest defensive gem gave Southwest Missouri State (21-10) its first victory ever against a Big Ten team and its first NCAA tournament victory since 1987.
"We're going to a fancy dinner tonight," Alford said, "and we'll use every bit of the NCAA's per diem. We're used to limits, and I don't have any liits tonight."
Danny Moore had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Bears, who advanced to Sunday's second round against Tennessee.
The Badgers (22-10) were held to 12-for-47 shooting (26 percent). Sean Mason, with 11 points, was the only Wisconsin player in double figures.
The Bears had their shooting problems as well, making just 13 of 33 field-goal attempts (39 percent), but they made up for it with swarming halfcourt pressure and a 35-18 rebounding edge.
"They were in our face," Wisconsin's Mike Kelley said. "They played good defense. They hustled through screens. They made it very hard for us."
One of the most telling numbers was that the smaller Bears held Wisconsin to three offensive rebounds.
"I think a lot of the time we got outhustled, and I don't know if you can really explain that," the Badgers' Charlie Wills said. "We were hyped to play, but we came out and it just seemed like it wasn't there."
The Badgers made the first field goal of the game, then made just one more over the next 10-plus minutes. While Wisconsin was missing 13 of its first 15 shots, however, Southwest Missouri State opened the game by missing 10 of 15 and turning it over six times.
But Wisconsin was unable to get closer than three points before the Bears pulled away for a nine-point halftime lead.
Mason opened the second half with a 3-pointer, cutting Southwest Missouri State's lead to 21-15, but that was as close as Wisconsin would get.
The Badgers cut it to six points one other time, at 28-22 on a pair of free throws by Mark Vershaw with 12:34 remaining. But Southwest Missouri State scored the next six points, with William Fontleroy's two foul shots giving the Bears their biggest lead to that stage, 34-22 with 7:07 left.
When Wisconsin won its only NCAA championship in 1941, the Badgers beat Washington State in the title game 39-34 - two fewer total points than were scored in Friday's game.
© 1999 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved