March Madness Thrillers

Spencer Nelson, right, drives past Kansas' Kirk Hinrich during Utah State's 61-64 loss in the NCAA West Regional first round game, Thursday March 20, 2003, in Oklahoma City.
Central Michigan, Arizona State and Tulsa provided the first-round upsets Thursday.

Holy Cross, Utah State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Colorado State all came oh-so-close to knocking off a favorite in the NCAA tournament.

And, by the looks of many of the first-round games, other players and coaches better brace themselves for thrillers of their own.

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Here's a recap of Thursday's action:


In the West bracket, No. 5 Notre Dame squeezed out a win from No. 12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Indianapolis. Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Clay Tucker held the ball as time ticked off the clock, waiting for the right opportunity to make team history.

He drove the lane, ran into a triple-team and dished to Dylan Page right under the basket. But Page's shot rolled off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

A day after shaving the heads of his Fighting Irish teammates as a show of team unity, Chris Thomas scored 27 points to lead them to a 70-69 win over Milwaukee-Wisconsin. The Irish are in the second round for the third straight year and they will face Illinois.

No. 4 seed Illinois beat No. 13 Western Kentucky, the Sun Belt champs. The Illinois freshmen showed no signs of nervousness in their first NCAA Tournament game Thursday.

The Illini's three first-year starters - James Augustine, Deron Williams and Dee Brown - combined for 37 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists, and Brown hit two free throws with 22.8 seconds left to seal Illinois' 65-60 victory over Western Kentucky.

In the Midwest bracket, Marquette won their first round game, which had a score that was close until less than a minute left to play, beating Holy Cross with a final score of 72-68 in Indianapolis.

Holy Cross hasn't won an NCAA game since 1953, but for the third straight year the Patriot League champions almost pulled off an upset of a higher-ranked team. The Crusaders lost to Kentucky in 2001 by four points and to Kansas last year by eleven.

Travis Diener scored a career-high 29 points to lead Marquette to the victory, which wasn't sealed until the final ten seconds of the game.

Tim Szatko led Holy Cross with 16 points.

Marquette will play Missouri in the second round. In Indianapolis, No. 6 Missouri won by a point over No. 11 Southern Illinois. The final score was 72-71.

Southern Illinois beat out Creighton for the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and had won 14 of its last 16 games.

The Salukis became the darlings of last year's tournament with upsets of Texas Tech and Georgia to reach the regional semifinals. But this year, their dreams ended early.


In Salt Lake City, the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils beat No. 14 Colorado State 67-57. Duke barely survived a shaky night out West, thanks largely to big Shelden Williams. The 6-foot-9 freshman scored on an offensive rebound with 1:21 to play, then sank two free throws with 44.2 seconds left.

They will face Central Michigan, which also advances into the second round in the West bracket.

A No.11 Central Michigan beat Creighton 79-73 in Salt Lake City. Central Michigan, the only school representing the MAC in this year's field of 65, added to the league's history of upsets. But they had to hang on to advance after nearly blowing a 26-point lead.

A No. 9 seed Gonzaga defeated No. 8 seed Cincinnati 74-69 in Salt Lake City. In the lost, Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins was kicked out in the second half of the Bearcats' NCAA tournament opener against Gonzaga after drawing two technicals on a disputed call.

Upset with a traveling call on a Cincinnati player, the volatile coach jumped in the air and landed with a two-footed stomp. That quickly got a technical from lead official Mike Kitts.

Huggins, who had a major heart attack in September, continued the tirade and after another minute was called for the second technical by Kitts, who pointed to the locker room tunnel after blowing the whistle.

Gonzaga will face Arizona in the second round.

In Salt Lake City, the No. 1 seed Arizona easily defeated No. 16 Vermont 80-51. Vermont didn't get to town until 11 p.m. Wednesday after being stranded in Denver because of snow.


In the South bracket, Emeka Okafor and No. 5 seed Connecticut sent No. 12 seed Brigham Young home early. Okafor controlled the middle on both ends of the court, scoring 20 points and blocking seven shots to lead the Huskies to a 58-53 victory over the Cougars in Spokane, Wash. Ben Gordon added 14 points for the Huskies, who are 11-0 in first-round games under coach Jim Calhoun.

Travis Hansen scored 21 points and Mark Bigelow added 12 for BYU. But they didn't get any help from their teammates. No other Cougar made a basket for a stretch of nearly 20 minutes spanning the first and second half.

UConn will meet Stanford in the second round as the No. 4 Cardinal's beat No. 13 San Diego 77-69.

Matt Lottich helped Stanford to a quick start, then saved the Cardinal with his late scoring.

Lottich scored 17 points and hit a big 3-pointer with 49.7 seconds remaining, lifting Stanford. The Cardinal, making their ninth straight NCAA appearance, came within a whisker of a first-round exit for the first time since 1992. But Stanford survived to play Saturday.

In the Midwest bracket, No. 13 Tulsa defeated No. 4 Dayton 84-71. Jason Parker, Kevin Johnson and Dante Swanson shot the Dayton Flyers right out of the NCAA tournament. Parker scored 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting, Swanson was 8-of-15 for 24 points and Johnson added 16 points on a 7-of-10 effort to advance to the next round.

Things get harder for Tulsa as they face Wisconsin. No. 5 Wisconsin beat potential giant-killer No. 12 Weber State, 81-74. Wisconsin showed right from the start that it has a potent enough offense to go with one of the nation's stingiest defenses.

Devin Harris scored on a layup off the opening tip and the Badgers never slowed down.


In the East bracket, the No. 2 seed, Kansas, defeated No. 15 seed Utah State 64-61. Kansas thought it deserved to be a No. 1 seed. But, perhaps the Jayhawks should feel lucky they're a No. 2. Last time they were No. 1 in Oklahoma City, they were bounced out of the tournament in the first round. History does not repeat itself this time.

The Jayhawks withstood two 3-point tries by Utah State in the final 10 seconds and moved on to the second round.

"In the back of everybody's mind, you realize if you lose, you're done," Kansas forward Nick Collison said. "But we weren't really scared, we didn't really panic."

The No. 8 seed California defeated No. 9 seed North Carolina State in Oklahoma City in the first overtime game of the tournament with a score of 76-74.

The Bears' Richard Midgely hit a three-point shot with 3.9 seconds left in overtime to beat the Wolfpack.

Joe Shipp led California with 24 points. Marcus Melvin and Josh Powell each scored 17 for North Carolina State.

The No. 1 seed Oklahoma seemed to have home court advantage as they demolished No. 16 South Carolina State 71-54 in Oklahoma City.

Also, No. 10 seed Arizona State pulled a small upset and beat No. 7 Memphis 84-71. Ike Diogu was Arizona State's freshman sensation all season and he led the way again in the NCAA tournament with 22 points, including 10 in a key second-half run.

The 2003 NCAA men's basketball tournament began in earnest just after noon Eastern time in Indianapolis when Marquette and Holy Cross tipped off.

That sets in motion the 63-game free-for-all that culminates in New Orleans with the Final Four and championship games April 5 & 7.

Along with Indianapolis, first round games are scheduled in Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City and Spokane, Wash., Thursday and Boston, Tampa, Fla., Birmingham, Ala. and Nashville Tenn. on Friday. Second round games a set for Saturday and Sunday in those same cities.

The top seeds in the year's tournament are Oklahoma (East), Texas (South), Kentucky (Midwest) and Arizona (West).