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MVC's Wichita State blows past Big East's Hall

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Sean Ogirri threw down a slam, then ran by the Wichita State fans with his arms
extended as if to announce, "Here I am."

He might as well have been talking for the Missouri Valley
Conference.

Ogirri had 23 points and hit six 3-pointers to lead Wichita
State past Seton Hall from the vaunted Big East 86-66 Thursday in
the first round of the Washington Regional, giving the mid-major
conference an impressive debut after hearing plenty of criticism
about its haul of four NCAA Tournament bids.

"We're really proud of what we've done, and we weren't going to
let a bunch of people around the country who haven't seen us make
us feel any different," Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon said of
the conference. "We know what we have and it's pretty special."

Paul Miller scored 15 points for the seventh-seeded Shockers
(25-8), who advanced to face Tennessee in Saturday's second round.
It was Wichita State's first NCAA win since reaching a regional
final in 1981, and its first tournament game since an 83-62
first-round loss to DePaul in 1988.

The win also provided the MVC a quick bit of vindication after
the league raised eyebrows with four bids, the same as the Atlantic
Coast, Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences. The criticism included CBS
analyst Billy Packer grilling selection committee chairman Craig
Littlepage over the selections, which clearly bothered Turgeon.

The coach insisted his team -- which won the regular-season title
but lost in the league tournament -- belonged in the NCAA
Tournament. He said the Shockers were eager to play a Big East
school. He was proven right on both counts.

Wichita State led just about the entire way, getting a strong
first half from Ogirri and Miller to build a 20-point lead late in
the half and lead by 16 at the break. Tenth-seeded Seton Hall
(18-12) never got closer than 11 in the second half.

The Pirates were the lowest-seeded team among a record eight
NCAA bids for the Big East. And even though they were the lower
seed in this matchup, their players sure talked like a favorite
from the bigger conference, with Donald Copeland making that
mind-set clear by promising Wednesday that the Pirates wouldn't
underestimate the Shockers.

It should have been the other way around.

Miller scored 11 points in the first half, starting the game
with a hook shot just 9 seconds in followed by a jumper from the
right corner on the next possession. Ogirri, meanwhile, provided
the perimeter counterpart to the 6-foot-10 senior and league player
of the year, scoring 12 points on four 3-pointers.

"We came into the game with a lot of confidence," Miller said.
"Any time you get a lot of time to practice, it can build your
confidence. And we're excited to be here. We felt like we belonged
and felt if we came out and executed like we did in practice, we'd
be fine.

"We were excited to play, and hungry."

After Ogirri hit his fourth 3 with about 4 minutes left in the
half, Miller hit a free throw and a layup while Wendell Preadom
scored on a baseline drive to make it 40-20 with 2:19 left.

"They got off to a great start," Seton Hall coach Louis Orr
said. "They made shots early and it seemed like they kept making
them throughout the game. They got us on our heels early, and we
didn't get stops. From that point, it was an uphill battle."

Seton Hall tried to rally, pulling to 55-44 on a 3 from Copeland
with about 12 minutes left. But the Shockers never let the Pirates
get the lead below double figures, getting Ogirri's fifth 3 and a
goaltended layup by Matt Braeuer to push it back to 63-46 with 9:13
left.

Ogirri hit his final 3 despite being fouled and knocked to the
ground in the left corner with about a minute left. He hit the free
throw to complete the four-point play for an 84-64 lead.

"It just felt good shooting in practice and in the
shootaround," Ogirri said. "It just felt fluid and natural. I
just was shooting, and it kept falling."

Kelly Whitney scored 18 points to lead the Pirates, who ended an
up-and-down season that saw them beat Pittsburgh and West Virginia
while also tallying a pair of three-game losing streaks and a
53-point loss to Duke in November.

"All year we faced adversity and we were doubted," said
Copeland, who scored 17 points. "You have to deal with a lot of
things off the court, but the coaches and everybody in the program
never quit."