Star power dims on a crazy night
ATLANTA -- What a night.
It's only fitting, even though neither would admit it, that both Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Duke's J.J. Redick exited the season on the same night. They had dominated the headlines throughout the season. Their competition for player of the year and scoring champ was a friendly rivalry, one focused not on the chase but rather on the raw enjoyment of just playing ball.
Morrison's last game obviously was painful for him because of the ending. Redick's was a constant struggle thanks to the nagging defense that wouldn't let him free for his shot.
"There was one time when he missed a shot and he pounded the ball against the basket [stanchion] after a dead ball and we could see that he was frustrated," LSU's Garrett Temple said.
Redick's body language throughout the game was of a player who couldn't believe he was being poked and prodded and not getting a trip to the free-throw line out of it. He talked to the refs. He motioned to the Duke staff. And there were a few timeouts when he came to the bench and tossed his towel down and pounded his fist into the seat. He even took an inadvertent shot to the eye once that had him quite ticked.
"Well, I'm obviously really disappointed, and this definitely hurts," Redick said after Duke's 62-54 loss to LSU on Thursday, a game in which Duke had its lowest point total of the season by 10.
"The past four years have been pretty amazing, and I didn't want it to end," Redick said. "It's been a thrill and a blessing for me to play at Duke and to have the teammates and coaches that I have had at Duke. I consider myself one of the luckiest people. That doesn't help the pain that I'm feeling right now."
Redick will go down as one of the finest shooting guards since the early-entry NBA era began. He lasted four years, racked up scoring records and 3-point marks, and became one of the most beloved Duke players ever.
"He was a relatively unathletic kid, but he's got the most heart of anyone I've ever met," said fellow Duke senior Lee Melchionni. "He's one of the best players in ACC and Duke basketball history. He's been great every other game. He's a great player and the best teammate I've ever had."
Redick finished his last game with only 11 points, missing 15 of his 18 shots and committing four turnovers. That doesn't diminish the magnificent career he has had one iota. He has been, like Morrison (who likely will leave after this, his junior season), a pleasure to watch and cover.
The same is true of West Virginia. There wasn't a dry eye in the Mountaineers' locker room late Thursday night after their buzzer-beater loss. These fellows stuck together and made a run no one thought was possible.
There is a link here with all three. Redick came in highly touted, but no one thought he would do what he did at Duke. Morrison was hardly recruited and will go down as the greatest Zag ever (John Stockton was better as a pro than he ever was as a Zag). These Mountaineers were not given a chance to be an elite team two years ago, but a perfect storm collected these wayward hoops souls for glorious runs to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16.
What a night, what a season, what a run for all of them.
WASHINGTON -- It's customary for the mayors of the two Super Bowl cities to proffer a friendly wager of local goods before the big game. But with the Mid-Major Super Bowl between George Mason of the Colonial Athletic Association and Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference on tap Friday night, do the league commissioners have a bet?
"No, we don't have a wager," CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said. "But I'm sure when we go to the commissioners' meeting in June, we'll take our wives out to dinner and treat them well. We've been very ornery to live with these last couple weeks. They're both pretty well tired of it."
Yeager and MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin have dragged their wives to a whole lot of commissioner's meetings (Yeager has 26 years of service and Elgin 18), but even though they now stand in each other's way when it comes to basketball glory for their conferences, they're the best of friends. At last weekend's Greensboro pod -- where CAA champion UNC Wilmington and MVC regular-season champ Wichita State were stationed -- the two greeted each other with a big congratulatory bear hug.
"There's a lot of mutual respect between us," said Elgin via phone Thursday from Oakland, where he was watching the MVC's 13th-seeded Bradley Braves fall to top-seeded Memphis. "So this is just for bragging rights. We're just happy that one of our teams will be moving on to play for a shot at the Final Four."
But who's paying for that dinner?
"He should pay anyway because he got four teams in, and I got two," Yeager said. "But I'd be more than happy to buy dinner if we win."
"Yeah, you can bet that whoever wins this one is buying a whole lot of dinner," Elgin cracked.
|PHOTO OF THE DAY|
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Adam Morrison sits in silent dejection as the Bruins celebrate in the background after UCLA's stunning 73-71 comeback win.
A wild night
Player of the day
LSU's Tyrus Thomas, the redshirt freshman who played like a fifth-year senior in the Tigers' 62-54 upset of No. 1 seed Duke. Thomas finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.
• Rodney Carney, Memphis: 23 pts, 4 rebs (80-64 W over Bradley)
• LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas: 26 pts (74-71 W over WVU)
• Kenton Paulino, Texas: Game-winning 3 at buzzer (74-71 W over WVU)
• Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA: Huge late-game plays (73-71 W over Gonzaga)
|THOUGHT OF THE DAY|
OAKLAND -- Memphis head coach John Calipari wanted to set the record straight. So, after his team's 80-64 victory over Bradley, he diverted from an answer about the defensive job his team did on the Braves' Patrick O'Bryant to explain.
He respects Bradley. He respects everyone. Just because he said his team didn't watch more than five minutes of tape on the Braves doesn't mean he was overlooking Thursday's opponent. It's just the way he coaches.
"I'm worried about my team. I'm worried about how they're playing," Calipari began. "I respect everybody we play. They all scare me to death. But I just do it different. I don't want my guys -- they don't have to watch five tapes."
The plan will be the same in the regional final against UCLA. After Thursday's win, Calipari told his team not to watch the UCLA-Gonzaga game and to head back to the team hotel and enjoy the victory over Bradley instead. When the time comes, he'll show them what they need to know on film.
"Go ball," Calipari said. "Go ball. I'll worry about the coaching. You just get out there and ball."
-- Wayne Drehs
|STATS OF THE DAY|
27.7 -- That was what Duke shot from the field against LSU in the upset loss. The Blue Devils also shot just 5-of-26 from 3-point range.
3 -- The number of points by which Memphis' victory margin over Bradley was greater than the sum of the margins in Thursday night's other three games.
Katz: Blood, sweat and cheers|
The Atlanta nightcap produced a classic finish when Kenton Paulino's 3 finally KO'd bloodied West Virginia. Story
Drehs: Zags' loss breaks hearts
Katz: LSU's group project
Gottlieb: How LSU flipped the script
Vitale: Congrats to the Tigers
Gottlieb: Sweet 16 story lines
March Madness blog
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