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But those upsets were surpassed by the upset-that-almost-was, ninth-seeded UCLA's scare of the top-seeded Wolverines on Sunday in last week's only overtime game. The Bruins led by as many as 19 points in the first half before Wolverine forwards Chris Webber (who finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds) and Ray Jackson (19 points) brought Michigan back. The Wolverines won the game when King put in a rebound of point guard Jalen Rose's miss with 1.5 seconds left in OT
Harrick questioned whether Rose's shot had beaten the 45-second clock. "I don't think there's a person in this room who knows for sure [whether the shot should have counted]," Harrick told reporters afterward. Of course, most of the assembled media thought that Rose's shot was legal—and a TV replay showing the shot clock confirmed this.
The Wolverines didn't have to worry about the legitimacy of their win, but they did leave Tucson with a few concerns. There was their familiar problem with free throws—they converted only 11 of 19, which opened the door for UCLA. Then there was Rose's shaky ball handling and shot selection down the stretch, which prompted coach Steve Fisher to bench him for part of the overtime.
And there was Michigan's tendency to coast at times, to play its best only when pushed. The Wolverines insist that's an unfair rap, but their performance Sunday only reinforced it.
Michigan thrives on criticism, though, real and perceived. The Wolverines enjoy thinking of themselves as unloved and underappreciated. The day before the UCLA game, Webber ticked off a list of what he considered unflattering things said or written about him by members of the media this season. The Wolverines have a way of converting such things into motivation. "Michigan may have lapses." Rose said, "but we have a commitment to ourselves that Michigan will never quit."
BEST LITTLE MAN
Western Kentucky point guard Mark Bell couldn't stop talking about reaching the Sweet 17 in the frenzied moments following the Hilltoppers' stunning 72-68 upset of the Southeast Region's second seed, Seton Hall, last Saturday afternoon in Orlando, Fla. To be sure, Bell was elated that his team had just joined the NCAA's Sweet 16, but at that moment he was more concerned about phoning his 17 older siblings: Shirley, Henry, Joe, Mattie, Albert, Annie, Charles, Mike, Brenda, Bridgette, John, Shelia, David, Patricia, Clemont, Tony and...how many is that?...oh yeah, Kathy. All were back home in Louisville, cheering for their baby brother.
Many of Bell's brothers and sisters had gathered, with their indefatigable 69-year-old mother, Mary, at Shelia's house to watch the Western Kentucky-Seton Hall game. Mary, who bore a total of 21 children (four of her kids and her two husbands are deceased), says that, for the most part, she was pregnant from 1941 to '55. Mark came along in '70, six years after his closest sibling in age. "I thought my child-birthing years were over with," says Mary. "But I'm glad I had him now."
Because of the ever-present crowd at home, Mark had to struggle for attention. It didn't help that he was a runt, the kid always chosen last for a pickup game at the local playground. It also didn't help that at Louisville's Ballard High he played in the backcourt with the much taller Allan Houston, who would go on to star at Tennessee. But as anyone who has had at least one older sibling can attest, dealing with 10 older brothers tends to make one scrappy. As evidence, the 5'8" Bell, the shortest guy on the court, grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in the Hilltoppers' 55-52 first-round win over Memphis State last Thursday. "When you grow up in a family the size of mine, you learn to fight for everything," Bell says. "A rebound to me is like a potato falling on the floor at home. Whoever gets it, gets it."
Bell was equally feisty in Western Kentucky's upset of Seton Hall, a team many observers were hailing as a favorite to make the Final Four on the strength of its 12-game winning streak. He converted a crucial driving shot with 4:19 left to pull the Hilltoppers within two points of the lead. Then, on Western's next possession, he sunk one of his four three-pointers to put the Hilltoppers in front for good. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds and the respect of much taller men.