Walking the walk
Sophs slam Rookies on All-Star Saturday
Updated: Monday February 19, 2001 4:02 PM
WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- In Wally's World, there is no such thing as a sophomore jinx.
Wally Szczerbiak scored 27 points on 11-of-13 shooting to lead the Sophomores to a 121-113 victory over the Rookies in All-Star Saturday's Rookie Challenge.
In a game filled with fast breaks, fancy passes and thunder dunks, Szczerbiak was content to stand outside and make open jump shots. In the first half, the 6-8 forward of the Minnesota Timberwolves was 6-of-8 from the field, drilling three 3-pointers, as the Sophomores took the lead for good.
"Well, I can't jump like those guys. I'm not going to lie," said Szczerbiak. "So I had to do something in order to try and put on a little bit of a show."
Not even a bloody nose could slow Szczerbiak. With 3 1/2 minutes remaining and the Sophs comfortably ahead, he took a slap in the face from Chicago's Khalid El-Amin after grabbing a rebound. Szczerbiak first slammed the ball to the floor but later laughed with El-Amin about the incident.
"I don't know if you saw it. I was a little ticked off," Szczerbiak said. "He never cuts his nails, so he got me good right below the cheekbone. It will be fine, just a scratch."
Szczerbiak finished 5-of-6 from behind the arc, grabbed eight rebounds and was named Most Valuable Player, becoming the first non-rookie to win the award. The midseason meeting featured all rookies until last year.
"I know shooting is a little bit of a lost art," said Szczerbiak, who was the unanimous MVP selection of the nine-member panel. "A lot of the guys want to high-fly and dunk, but what I do best is knock down shots -- and knock them down at a good percentage."
"He can shoot," Rookies coach Kevin Loughery said. "Not only that, you bring anybody into the game today that can shoot the basketball, they are going to play forever in the NBA because defenses right now are compacted in."
It was by far the highest-scoring game in the seven-year history of the series. The NBA extended the game by 10 minutes to 40 and the teams passed the previous record of 187 combined points with 7:21 to go.
Houston's Steve Francis was his usual fancy self and scored 20 points for the Sophs, who shot a blistering 64 percent (53-of-83) from the field and had seven of nine players in double figures. Phoenix's Shawn Marion scored 18 points, Charlotte's Baron Davis and Chicago's Elton Brand added 13 apiece and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Clippers had 12.
Szczerbiak, Francis and Brand were part of the Rookies squad that defeated the Sophomores in overtime last year in Oakland, California.
The Rookies shot 47 percent (46-of-97). There were an astounding 138 points in the paint, 76 by the Sophs.
"I used [assistant coach] Jack Marin's defense today," Loughery joked.
The Sophs took the lead for good at 11-10 on a 3-pointer by Francis just over four minutes into the game. Szczerbiak had two 3-pointers in a 12-2 run that widened the lead to 38-20 at the 9:12 mark.
"I know the coaches really wanted us to win, and if I was going to hit open shots, that was going to help us win, and it did," Szczerbiak said.
The Rookies trailed by as many as 19 points before Miles began his assault on the tin. In the final 6 1/2 minutes of the half, he had six dunks, including one where he threw a behind-the-back pass to Golden State's Marc Jackson and took a return lob for a hammer slam.
Trailing 67-57 at halftime, the Rookies started Miles in the second half. But he was quiet thereafter, adding just one dunk in the final minute.
Orlando swingman Mike Miller, the only player who did not score in the first half, heated up after halftime with three 3-pointers and 11 points. He helped the Rookies stay close, and they cut the deficit to 102-98 with 5:57 to play on a dunk by Toronto's Morris Peterson off an alley-oop pass from Miles.
"I didn't just want to be the receiver," Miles said. "You've got to be the mailman sometimes."
Odom answered with a dunk and a three-point play on consecutive trips. Davis fed Marion for a layup and windmill dunk as the Sophs rebuilt the lead to 117-107 with 2:32 remaining. Szczerbiak finally got into the high-flying act with his lone dunk less than a minute later.
Francis caught a pair of rookies in embarrassing mistakes in the second half. He almost was able to swing his foot over a crouched El-Amin while dribbling around the defender's back. Later, while on defense, he tricked New Jersey's Kenyon Martin into passing the ball to him.
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