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Cinderella's a Blazer

UAB upsets No. 3 seed Mississippi State

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Posted: Monday March 20, 2000 08:00 AM

  Alabama-Birmingham's Michelle Smith (44) blows by Mississsippi State's LaToya Thomas. AP

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Mississippi State did its homework on Alabama-Birmingham's high-scoring Deanna Jackson, but the Lady Bulldogs weren't prepared for the all-around game of Holly Holland.

Holland scored 21 points as UAB built a big second-half lead and held on to upset Mississippi State 78-72 Sunday night in the West Regional.

"She has a lot of confidence, and she wants the ball at the end," UAB coach Jeannie Milling said of Holland, who tied her season high.

Jackson, who leads the nation with 24 double-doubles this season, had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The 11th-seeded Lady Blazers (21-12) will play No. 2 Rutgers in the regional semifinals in Portland next Saturday. UAB had never won an NCAA women's tournament game before this year.

UAB is the lowest seed to advance to the round of 16 since 1996, when 11th-seeded Stephen F. Austin and No. 12 San Francisco made it. It's the first time a team from the five-year-old Conference USA has advanced this far.

"This team is so amazing," Holland said. "I'm so glad to be a part of it."

LaToya Thomas, the nation's top-scoring freshman in the regular season at nearly 21 points per game, led third-seeded Mississippi State (24-8) with 26 points, but fouled out with 50 seconds left.

The Lady Bulldogs were bigger and faster, but were hurt by foul trouble. Second-leading scorer Jennifer Fambrough picked up her fourth foul just 2:06 into the second half and played a total of 12 minutes, scoring five points.

"When our key players are on the bench, that's not helping us," Mississippi State's Angela Harris said.

Jackson, who caught Mississippi State's eye by scoring a career-high 32 in Friday's 80-79 overtime win over sixth-seeded Oregon, started slowly, scoring just eight in the first half.

Mississippi State did a good job of denying Jackson the ball most of the time, but that only freed up Holland to hit 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

Jackson's baseline drive, followed by Holland's 3-pointer, finished an 11-0 run that put the Blazers up 60-41 with 8:05 to go.

The Bulldogs rallied, getting within 70-65 on a layup by Angela Harris with a minute left. But the Blazers hit their free throws and held onto the lead.

"I was very, very proud of our fight down the stretch," said Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning. "But where was that fight earlier?"

Smith added 17 points for UAB, which shot 58 percent from the field.

Jackson's older sister Lisa, the starting point guard, reinjured her left knee after driving for a layup with 14:33 to go. She was carried off the court, and her status for next weekend is uncertain.

Holland matched Thomas with 12 points in the first half as UAB took a 39-28 lead. Holland also played solid defense and helped feed Deanna Jackson and center Michelle Smith in the low post.

A turnaround jumper by Thomas pulled Mississippi State to 23-21, but Lisa Jackson keyed an 8-0 run with a short jumper, two free throws and a 3-pointer to push the lead to 31-21.

The Lady Blazers played in front of more people the past two games at McArthur Court than they did all season in Birmingham. The two-session attendance was 10,510, while the Blazers drew 9,085 in 12 home games at Bartow Arena.


 
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