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Bluejays Dispose Of Louisville

Rodney Buford, Ben Walker and the Creighton Bluejays made sure Louisville got no more chances.

Buford sparked a rally from a 13-point deficit in the second half and Walker led a late foul-shooting show as Creighton defeated Louisville 62-58 Thursday in the first round of the South Regional.

"To beat a team with Louisville's tradition, it means a lot to us," Creighton coach Dana Altman said. "It gives us a chance, if only for a day, to say we competed with the very best."

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  • Creighton (22-8) won just its second NCAA tournament game in 25 years, and first since 1991. The 10th-seeded Bluejays advanced to play Maryland, an 82-60 winner over Valparaiso, on Saturday.

    Louisville wasn't even supposed to be in this tournament, but last month became the first school to get a postseason ban reversed. The Cardinals had been penalized for recruiting violations, then were allowed to play because of a procedural error by the NCAA.

    "It was definitely a second chance," guard Cameron Murray said. "We definitely wanted to make that statement and show that we're back."

    Instead, coach Denny Crum's team made a rare early exit. The seventh-seeded Cardinals (19-11) had reached the round of 16 in four of the last six years.

    "We got ahead 13 and it seemed like everybody all at once quit," Crum said. "We got beat because we didn't attack the basket. We got too conservative."

    Buford's breakaway dunk began the Bluejays' rally from a 40-27 deficit with 16 minutes left. After shooting just for 2-for-13 in the first half, he hit a 3-pointer that put Creighton ahead for good at 52-49.

    "I knew I was going to hit at least one," Buford said. "We needed to have that."

    Creighton scores a big victory for the Missouri Valley Conference.>
    Creighton scores a big victory for the Missouri Valley Conference. (AP)

    "The first half I was rushing everything," he said. "Coach told me to slow down and relax and play my game."

    Walker, playing with four fouls, scored seven points in the final three minutes. He made four free throws as Creighton went 10-for-10 in the last 90 seconds.

    Before this comeback, the biggest halftime deficit the Bluejays had overcome to win was seven points against Iowa.

    "The last 12 minutes, we scored a lot of points," Walker said. "We just buckled up."

    Walker finished with 16 points and Buford, the team's leading scorer, scored 13 on 6-for-21 shooting. Tony Williams scored 21 points for Louisville.

    The Cardinals' quickness sent them to a seven-point lead in the opening two minutes, just as Altman feared. All during practice Wednesday, he shouted a warning to his team: "No lazy passes! They've got quicker hands than ours!"

    Creighton climbed back, though, taking its first lead of the game at 49-47 on Walker's three-point play with 3:04 left.

    Murray's two foul shots tied it at 49 before Buford's 3 keyed the Bluejays' late surge. Creighton scored its final 10 points from the foul line and finished 13-of-14 from the line -- all of those attempts came in the second half.

    Though the Bluejays had no NCAA Tournament experience, the Missouri Valley Conference tournament champions had been tested before. They were 8-1 against teams that made this March's field of 64, and now get a chance to play second-seeded Maryland.

    Crum's record fell to 42-22 overall in tournament games. The Cardinals had steadily improved after the NCAA ban was lifted, but ran into Creighton and ran out of chances.

    Nate Johnson scored 14 points for Louisville. Doug Swenson had 11 for Creighton.

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