The second seed Pirates waited through a couple of tightly contested games in the first round of the Southeast Regional at the Orlando Arena, but the feature game was no contest. Seton Hall crushed the lightly-regarded Tigers, 81-59, to move into a second-round matchup against 20th-ranked Western Kentucky tomorrow.
The seventh seed Hilltoppers earned their place in the round of 32 with a 55-52 victory over Memphis State.
Seton Hall's place in the second round never was in doubt. The Pirates, who dominated the Big East and swept through the conference tournament on the way to the Southeast Regional, jumped out to a 23-point lead in the first half and didn't even slow down to see what they hit.
Big East Player of the Year Terry Dehere scored 19 points and had six assists to lead the Pirates. Junior forward Arturas Karnishovas added 13 and freshman forward Adrian Griffin added 12 as Seton Hall won its 12th in a row and improved to 28-6.
The Tigers were not a serious threat to go deep into the tournament, but Seton Hall coach P. J. Carlesimo still had to make sure his team took them seriously.
"Watching the tapes, I think our kids were impressed," he said. "I think they understood that you have to come and play basketball, or its going to be a struggle."
Tennessee State couldn't match up inside against 7-2 center Luther Wright and had little success shutting off the perimeter game. The Tigers (19-10) may have been the dominant team in bTC the Ohio Valley Conference this season, but they were not quite ready for prime time.
Junior center Carlos Rogers had 24 points and 13 rebounds and freshman forward Monty Wilson added 18 points and 13 boards, but the Pirates were just too strong, too deep and too tough on defense. The Tigers hit just six of 31 shots from the field in the first half.
"I thought we played defense very well in the first half," Carlesimo said. "We didn't do a thing to stop Rogers, but I thought our intensity was good. We put pressure on their three-point shooters. We played good defense, and we didn't turn the ball over."
Seton Hall did suffer one loss last night, however. Guard Danny Hurley suffered a sprained ligament in the ring finger of his left hand and is questionable for the game against Western Kentucky.
W. Ky. 55, Memphis St. 52
Memphis State self-destructed at the free-throw line in the final minute and was eliminated by 20th-ranked Western Kentucky.
All-America forward Anfernee Hardaway had a free throw taken away because of a lane violation and missed the front end of a one-and-one to put a frustrating end to a frustrating season for the once-promising Tigers.
Memphis State started the season among the top 10 teams in the country and ended it unranked and out of the Southeast Regional in the first round.
"We just weren't aggressive tonight," Tigers coach Larry Finch said. "I told them in the locker room after the game we didn't deserve to win after standing around like that all night. You can't win in a tournament like this standing around. We just weren't hungry enough."
Western Kentucky (25-5) came from four points down at the start of the second half and controlled the tempo until the final minute. Hardaway put the Tigers (20-12) ahead by one on a left-handed four-footer with 46 seconds left and was fouled, but the lane violation by guard Billy Smith cost a three-point play.
Hardaway had a chance to bring the Tigers back from a one-point deficit with the one-and-one with 22 seconds to go, but missed the front end. Hilltoppers forward Darnell Mee made two free throws in the final seconds for the final margin.
Hardaway finished with 17 points, well below his season average of 23.0. Western Kentucky guard Mark Bell led all scorers with 18.
No. 11 seed Tulane registered a mild upset when the Green Wave defeated Kansas State.
Kansas State (19-11) was seeded higher, and the Wildcats looked as if they were going to run into the second round when they opened up an 11-2 lead. Tulane (22-8) came back to move ahead with 9:17 left in the first half, and the margin was more than three points only once the rest of the way.
The Wildcats (19-11) appeared to take control again when a three-point shot by guard Askia Jones gave them a five-point lead with seven minutes left in the game, but the Green Wave fought back to take the lead with 52 seconds left on a layup and a foul shot by forward Matt Greene.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't get it done today," said Kansas State coach Dana Altman. "We didn't keep them off the boards well enough. We didn't handle their trapping defense."