Trojans Fall To Bulldogs, 65-58

Nov 15, 2001

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FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - In a battle of two of the West Coast's premier bigmen, a little guy stole the show.

Freshman Matt Mitchell scored 17 points, including 9-of-10 from thefree-throw line, as Fresno State advanced to the semifinals of the PreseasonNIT with a 65-58 victory Thursday night over No. 20 Southern California.

Mitchell, a lightly recruited 6-foot point guard from Atlanta, made a key3-pointer and four straight free throws in the final 52.7 seconds as theBulldogs held on for the upset.

Fresno State (2-0) advanced to play the winner of Friday night'sArkansas-Wake Forest matchup on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. No. 15Michigan State meets No. 21 Syracuse in the other semifinal.

'I had a lot of confidence in myself,' Mitchell said. 'I just had to getcoach (Jerry Tarkanian) to believe in me, and hopefully now he does.'

Tarkanian said Fresno State was the only Division I school to offer Mitchella scholarship.

'I don't know how we got him,' Tarkanian said. 'He's just a gift.'

Sam Clancy scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds before fouling out forthe Trojans (1-1), who clawed back from a 14-point halftime deficit to tie thegame with 3:11 left.

But Southern Cal, which advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournamentlast season, scored just one basket the rest of the way.

The Trojans lost despite limiting Fresno State to 28.1 percent shooting andholding Melvin Ely, the Western Athletic Conference preseason player of theyear, to nine points. Chris Jefferies led the Bulldogs with 18 points and 12rebounds.

'The game plan was to not let Jefferies, Ely and (Damon) Jackson beat us,'Southern Cal coach Henry Bibby said. 'The little guy beat us, and that's OK.'

An expected battle between Clancy and Ely never materialized as both teamsstruggled offensively.

The Trojans finished just 2-of-18 from 3-point range and attempted 21 fewerfree throws. Clancy, Jerry Dupree and David Bluthenthal all fouled out in thefinal minutes.

'We got back into the game, but then we go four times down the floor anddon't even get a shot,' Bibby said. 'That's what kills you.'

Fresno State led 39-24 at halftime even though Ely attempted just two shots.

A 12-0 Bulldogs scoring run midway through the first half turned a one-pointedge into a 25-12 lead.

Southern Cal got a big lift in the second half from freshman Rory O'Neil,who scored 11 points and helped Clancy double team Ely.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Granville with 3:11 left tied it at 56-56, but FresnoState made 8-of-9 free throws down the stretch to keep the Trojans at bay.

Mitchell was inserted into Fresno State's rotation after Tito Maddox wasdismissed from the team during the summer for accepting gifts from an agent.Maddox's replacement, Chris Sandy, was declared ineligible until springsemester pending a second NCAA appeal.

Tarkanian said he did not know if Sandy would accompany the team to NewYork.

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