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NCAA Tournament Recap (New Mexico-Connecticut)

Posted: Sat March 13, 1999 at 8:34 p.m. EST

DENVER (Ticker) -- Nothing cures an upset stomach like a good win.

Coach Jim Calhoun recorded his 300th victory at Connecticut in grand style as his top-seeded Huskies scored the first 17 points and rolled to a 78-56 rout of New Mexico in the second round of the NCAA Tournament's West Region.

Calhoun, who was not on the sidelines for Thursday's first-round romp past Texas-San Antonio due to an intestinal virus, improved to 300-120 in his 13th season with the Huskies and 550-257 in 27 overall.

"I certainly feel better than I did a couple of days ago for two reasons," said Calhoun. "More importantly, we came out and played a solid basketball game."

The Huskies (30-2), who are trying to reach their first Final Four in 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, took control of the game at the outset as Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin hit 3-pointers in the first 99 seconds.

El-Amin had eight points in the game-opening run, which was capped by two free throws from Edmund Saunders at the 13:08 mark.

"When we jumped out to a 15-0 lead, they looked shellshocked," said El-Amin. "We knew they would make a run, but we just wanted then to make a run of our own. But you could see that they were shellshocked when we got out to the big lead."

El-Amin and Hamilton scored 21 points apiece for Connecticut, which advanced to the regional semifinals for the seventh time this decade. The Huskies have reached the round of eight three times in the 1990s, including last year in the East Region.

Connecticut will play fifth-seeded Iowa in the West Region semifinals in Phoenix on Thursday.

Damion Walker scored 21 points and Lamont Long added 15 for New Mexico (25-9), which was bounced in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year. Kenny Thomas, who led the Lobos in scoring at 18.5 points per game, was held to one in what was his final collegiate game.

"Kenny Thomas meant an unbelievable amount to our program," said Lobos coach Dave Bliss. "Without Kenny, we would have never had the opportunity to do a lot of things that we have done throughout his career."

The Lobos were struck with a major case of the jitters in the first seven-plus minutes, committing seven turnovers and missing their four shots. They did not score until Greg Davis hit two free throws with 12:48 left, drawing mock cheers from the crowd.

"It was tough to get the things accomplished that we wanted to do out there today," said Lobos guard Kevin Henry. "They are a quick and fast defensive team and they put a lot of pressure on our guards, not letting us get into our offense."

The first New Mexico basket came 63 seconds later on a post lay-in by Walker, who had four points in a 9-0 run to pull the Lobos within 20-11 with 8:59 to go. But the Huskies countered with a 6-1 burst as a 16-footer by Saunders rebuilt the lead to 26-12 at the 5:54 mark and led 37-22 at halftime.

They left no doubt about the outcome in the second half, scoring the first 13 points to take a 50-22 lead with 16:31 to play after two free throws by Hamilton, who combined with El-Amin to score all the points in the run. The 28-point margin also turned out to be the largest of the game.

"We are a spurtability team," said Calhoun. "We really try to convert our steals into points. Whether it be from the free throw line or the wing, we try to make those steals count."

Saunders contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench as the Huskies shot 45 percent (28-of-62) and outrebounded New Mexico, 45-33.

Thomas was 0-of-6 from the field, but New Mexico's three-guard attack of Long, Henry and John Robinson were equally ineffective, combining to go 8-of-38. The Lobos were 15-of-57 (26 percent) overall, including a woeful 4-of-21 from beyond the arc.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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