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NCAA Tournament Recap (Creighton-Louisville)

Posted: Thur March 11, 1999 at 8:21 p.m. EST

ORLANDO (Ticker) -- Rodney Buford drilled a 3-pointer with 2:13 to play and 10th-seeded Creighton went 10-of-10 from the foul line in the final 92 seconds to upset Louisville, 62-58, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the South Region.

The Blue Jays (22-8) rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to record their first NCAA Tournament victory since beating New Mexico State in the first round in 1991. They will play second-seeded Maryland in the second round Saturday.

Buford, who accumulated 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals, gave Creighton the lead for good when his shot over Louisville forward Nate Johnson swished through to make it 52-49. Ben Walker and Ryan Sears each hit four three throws and Doug Swenson added a pair down the stretch as the Blue Jays hung on.

"I knew I was going to hit at least one 3-pointer tonight," Buford said. "It felt good and I saw the man stepping back and I was coming right at it. I felt like we needed a three to take the lead, and when I took the shot it just felt right at the time."

Tony Williams scored 21 points for Louisville (19-11), which was allowed to compete in the NCAA Tournament only after winning an appeal in late January to have a postseason ban removed. The Cardinals were given a one-year postseason ban because of rules violations in the offseason.

"Creighton played great in the second half," said Cardinals coach Denny Crum. "We had too many turnovers and not enough scoring opportunities. We had a hard time with the match-up zone. We became tentative in the second half with the 13-point lead."

Louisville was eliminated in the first round for just the third time in 22 NCAA Tournament apperances under Crum.

The Cardinals led by eight at halftime and built their advantage to 40-27 when Nate Johnson drained a jump shot with 16:07 to play. But Louisville made just one field goal over the next 7:10 as the Blue Jays fought back with a 15-2 run.

"We got ahead and I think we subconsciously let up," Crum added. "We usually play well in the second half."

Buford began the spurt with a dunk, Donnie Johnson drove for a layup and Buford nailed a jumper to bring Creighton within 40-33 with 12 1/2 minutes remaining. Eric Johnson nailed a 3-pointer fomr the left corner, but Creighton scored the next nine points as Corie Brandon hit the first of two free throws, Walker made a 3-pointer from the right wing and Nerijus Karlikanovas hit a jumper. A three-point play by Swenson with 8:47 left cut Louisville's lead to 43-42.

"In the first half I was rushing everything, and I wasn't taking my time," Buford said. "Coach (Dana Altman) told me to slow down and relax and to just go out and play my game in the second half."

Williams drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to push the lead back to four points, and after a jumper by Buford, Williams sank 1-of-2 from the line to make it 47-44. But Creighton called a quick timeout and Sears' runner made it a one-point game.

After a timeout by Louisville, Walker was fouled while driving down the lane for a layup and the ensuing free throw gave the Blue Jays a 49-47 lead. Murray tied it by connecting on two free throws with 2:37 left, but Buford's 3-pointer gave Creighton the upper hand.

"Our team was tired and they were running a weave when Buford pulled up and hit it (the three) when nobody expected it," said Louisville forward Alex Sanders.

Walker twice hit two free throws, but each time Marques Maybin kept Louisville in the game with quick baskets, the second making it a 56-53 game with 1:06 left. Louisville played defense instead of fouling and appeared set to get the ball back when Buford missed in the lane. But Sanders was called for a foul trying to get the rebound, and Swenson hit two free throws to make it 58-53 with 30 seconds to go.

After an offensive foul by Maybin, Sears hit two from the line with 16 seconds left. Maybin threw down a dunk, but again Sears hit two foul shots to make a 3-pointer by Williams with 4.7 seconds to play meaningless.

"When the buzzer sounded (is when we knew we had the game won)," said Sears. "It was a 40-minute game and they were playing hard back at us."

Walker scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and Swenson added 11 for Creighton, which shot 43 percent (23-of-54) but made just 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Buford grabbed eight rebounds and Karlikanovas seven to go with nine points as the Blue Jays held a 31-30 advantage on the boards.

"This win feels good," said Walker. "It's a big confidence builder for our team. We had a lot of jitters. We got our shots and they started falling in the second half."

Sears dished out seven assists but committed four of Creighton's 16 turnovers. The Cardinals, however, had 21 turnovers.

Nate Johnson netted 14 points and Alex Sanders had seven rebounds for Louisville, which shot 49 percent (24-of-49) and 5-of-14 from beyond the arc.

"We started walking the ball up the court and Creighton wasn't going to let us find any open shots (in the second half)," Nate Johnson said. "When the shot clock ran down it forced us to start rushing our shots."

Creighton was 13-of-14 from the foul line, while Louisville attempted just nine free throws, making five.

"We knew if we played our game that we'd win," Buford said. "We needed to relax after the first half and play the game that we wanted."

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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