Trojans Stunned By UNC Wilmington, 93-89, In OT

March 14, 2002

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - 'Dream big. Focus small' is North CarolinaWilmington's slogan this season.

The 13th-seeded Seahawks did just that against Southern California, stunningthe fourth-seeded Trojans 93-89 in overtime Thursday night in a first-roundSouth Regional game.

'Everybody doubts us except ourselves,' said UNCW's Brent Blizzard, whoscored 18 points. 'We didn't come here with our cameras like we did two yearsago. We came with the right attitude. We didn't just talk about it, we didit.'

The Trojans rallied from a 19-point deficit to force overtime, getting a3-pointer from freshman Errick Craven with 8 seconds remaining to tie it at 80.

'When that ball went in to tie the game up, you have to ask yourself, `Howbad do you want it?' ' UNCW coach Jerry Wainwright said. 'At a very deflatingmoment, they pulled together. They played great in overtime.'

In the 5-minute extra session, the Seahawks steadied themselves andoutscored the Trojans 13-9 to earn their first NCAA tournament victory. UNCWlost to Cincinnati two years ago in its only other appearance.

'This goes back to how strong our will is,' Blizzard said. 'Every team isgoing to make a run. You have to fight it off and come back with one of yourown.'

Last year, USC (22-10) reached the final eight for the first time since1954, and lost to eventual national champion Duke. Expectations were higherthis year for a Final Four run.

'We were a good team, but probably not as good as everyone thought,' USCcoach Henry Bibby said. 'I didn't think we executed when we needed to duringthe season. We covered up a lot of things with our defense. The press carriedus all year and we tricked a lot of people.'

It was a bitter ending for USC seniors Sam Clancy, Brandon Granville andDavid Bluthenthal, who were key components of last year's tournament run. Allthree fouled out in overtime.

'I feel bad for the fans,' Clancy said. 'I know they had highexpectations for us to do well in the tournament.'

After dazzling USC with 52 percent shooting in the first half, UNCW, a10,599-student school from Michael Jordan's hometown of Wilmington, N.C., madejust one field goal in the final 9{ minutes of regulation.

But the Trojans were stymied offensively in overtime. Clancy, who scored 21points, missed three tries on USC's first possession, then Craven missed alayup. The Trojans shot 43 percent for the game.

'I felt like we had momentum coming into overtime,' Granville said. 'Wemissed easy buckets and free throws in overtime that could've maintained themomentum and put us over the top. We didn't make the plays down the stretch.'

Blizzard got UNCW going with a three-point play for an 83-80 lead. Craventied it with a three-point play, but Clancy missed and then a rebound slippedout of Jerry Dupree's hands.

Blizzard saw the frustration in the eyes of USC's players.

'I knew we had them on the ropes,' he said.

UNCW's Stewart Hare scored four points, including an emphatic dunk, in thefinal 45 seconds of overtime.

'Everybody had confidence and made the right plays,' Blizzard said.

Desmon Farmer drew USC to 91-89 on a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left inovertime, but Blizzard got fouled and made both free throws to end it. Farmerfinished with 20 points, and Bluthenthal added 19.

The Seahawks (23-9), whose victories are a school record, knocked downuncontested shots from all over the court. Craig Callahan scored 18 pointsbefore fouling out in regulation.

'It seemed like there was a point in the game where everyone was hittingshots,' Clancy said.

UNCW came in holding opponents to 40 percent field-goal shooting. TheSeahawks, who've won five in a row and 11 of their last 13, got off todominating starts in both halves, and left USC scrambling.

The Trojans hit just 35 percent in the first half, when they trailed bynine. Four minutes into the second half, USC trailed by 19 - its largestdeficit of the game.

USC earned its highest seeding this year, a reward for finishing tied forsecond in the Pac-10 Conference and for reaching the conference tournamentfinal, where it lost to Arizona.

But the smothering defense the Trojans played so effectively against Arizonawas nowhere to be seen Thursday.

'It was our fourth game in seven days,' Bibby said. 'It took us a whileto get into the game. The Pac-10 tourney took an edge off of us.'

It was USC's sixth first-round tournament exit and first since 1997, whenthe Trojans lost to Illinois 90-77.

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