March 21, 2001
REGIONAL: Midwest, Regional Semifinals.
TIME: Friday, 7:55 p.m. EST.
SITE: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas.
Mississippi heads into unchartered waters as it makes its first regionalsemifinal appearance in school history Friday when it plays Arizona at theAlamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The third-seeded Rebels had made just four NCAA tournament appearances priorto this year and had won just one game. But Mississippi played well enough toadvance with a pair of close victories by a combined five points, edging Ionain the first round and downing Notre Dame in the second round.
'It has sunk in that we are going to the Sweet 16,' said Rebels coach RodBarnes. 'All the history and all that stuff I can't get caught up in or allowour players to get caught up in. The ultimate goal when you start thistournament is to win a national championship and if we get an opportunity to dothat, after that game we will sit back and look at the season.'
If the Rebels are to continue their unprecedented run, they will needanother strong performance from center Rahim Lockhart like he provided inSunday's 59-56 victory over Notre Dame. Lockhart finished with 24 points andseven rebounds for Mississippi, shooting 10-for-16 from the field.
'Our goals were not just to make it to the 'sweet sixteen',' Lockhartsaid. 'You don't want to look back now on your career because my career isn'tover yet. We have plenty of time after we finish to think about what we havedone in our careers.'
Arizona, the second seed, has played well in reaching the regionalsemifinals for the fourth time in the last six years. The Wildcats - one offour teams from the Pac-10 Conference to reach the regional semifinals - hadlittle trouble with both Eastern Illinois and Butler, winning by a combined 46points.
While Lute Olson's team played well offensively in the first two rounds, itwas Arizona's defense which made the Wildcats a complete team. They held bothopponents under 40 percent shooting in their two NCAA tournament wins and ownedthe boards with an 81-47 advantage.
'Nobody will make it to the Final Four without great defense,' Olson said.'Us, Duke, Kentucky, Illinois, and take a look at what Temple has done. Thereis not going to be anybody in Minneapolis that isn't a good defensive team.'
The Wildcats outrebounded Butler 38-15 in their 73-52 victory Sunday.
'I feel like were living up to our potential right now,' said Wildcatsguard Gilbert Arenas, who has 36 points in the two wins. 'We have to come outand play every game like its our last. I would rather peak now in the end ofthe season than at the beginning of the season.'
Mississippi won the only game between the teams, a 75-70 win at Memphis in1953.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Mississippi - F Jason Flanigan (7.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg), FJustin Reed (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), C Lockhart (13.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), G DavidSanders (6.8 ppg, 1.9 apg), G Justin Holmes (6.4 ppg, 1.9 apg). Arizona - FMichael Wright (16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg), F Richard Jefferson (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), CLoren Woods (12.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Arenas (16.6 ppg, 2.3 apg), G Jason Gardner(10.5 ppg, 4.3 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mississippi - At-large bid, Southeastern Conference,defeated No. 14 Iona 72-70, first round, defeated No. 6 Notre Dame 59-56,second round. Arizona - At-large bid, Pac-10 Conference, defeated No. 15Eastern Illinois 101-76, first round, defeated No. 10 Butler 73-52, secondround.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Mississippi - 3-4, 5 years. Arizona - 29-18, 20years.