Rhode Island uses balancing act to stop Purdue Arkansas rolls; St. John's wins East Regional


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Purdue had Glenn Robinson. Rhode Island had much better balance.

And balance prevailed over individual brilliance last night in the first round of the East Regional at Joel Memorial Coliseum.

Robinson, the leading scorer in the Big Ten this season, scored 36 points for the Boilermakers, but he couldn't single-handedly stave off Rhode Island, which advanced to play top-seeded North Carolina with a 74-68 victory.

North Carolina rolled past East Carolina, 85-65.

Purdue (18-10) rallied from a nine-point deficit, almost exclusively on Robinson's offense, to within 71-68 with 17 seconds remaining.

Andre Samuel had missed two free throws that would have put it away for the Rams, then Purdue took a timeout to set up a XTC potential tying shot.

The inbounds pass came to Robinson, who got a clear three-point shot that bounced off the rim. Rhode Island hit three foul shots to finish it off.

"I got a pretty good look at it," said Robinson. "It was an almost uncontested shot. No one jumped. I just didn't complete it."

The key maneuver in the game came early in the second half, when Rams coach Al Skinner benched his starting point guard, Carlos Easterling, and assigned Carlos Cofield to direct traffic.

"We weren't able to put any pressure on the ball, and doing that gave us the defense we needed," said Skinner. "This club has a lot of flexibility, interchangeable parts."

Arkansas 94, Holy Cross 64

Holy Cross tried to play an Arkansas-style game in the first round of the NCAA East Regional at Joel Memorial Coliseum.

It was definitely not the way to go.

The Razorbacks rolled over the Patriot League champions with an avalanche of quickness and athletic ability and scored an easy victory in the first meeting between the two schools.

Arkansas -- 12th-ranked nationally and fourth-seeded in the region -- advanced to tomorrow's second round against St. John's, which pulled away late to eliminate Texas Tech, 85-67.

Holy Cross (23-7) was coming off an impressive 98-73 romp in the Patriot League title game at Bucknell's Davis Gym, usually a tough place for visiting teams.

So veteran coach George Blaney decided to maintain the up-tempo basketball that succeeded handsomely against conference foes.

But the Razorbacks ruined that strategy, forcing 31 Holy Cross turnovers, scoring at will inside when playing their regular sets and really deciding the issue with a 23-5 run midway through the first half.

"It was very frustrating," said Crusaders forward Rob Feaster, the MVP of the Patriot League tournament. "We knew what to expect, but it's different on the floor than on paper."

All 14 Razorbacks in uniform scored, with the bench accounting for 53 points, 19 by freshman forward Corliss Williamson, who dominated inside.

Williamson, 6 feet 7, missed half the season with a broken foot, but yesterday he had 19 points, a team high, and seven rebounds in only 19 minutes. He said his teammates "got me the ball in the right time at the right places."

Arkansas (21-8) was expected to face a rebuilding year after losing seven players (four to the NBA) and retaining just three seniors. But it won the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference and went 8-3 against teams in the NCAA field during a surprisingly good season.

"They [Arkansas] are so talented and so deep that it was very difficult to get into anything we wanted to do," said Blaney. "Almost every place we went, they were running at us and trapping. I'm disappointed in how we handled that pressure."

St. John's 85, Texas Tech 67

Fifth seed St. John's (19-10) had a fight from the Red Raiders, who won the Southwest Conference tournament after finishing fifth in the regular season.

With 7:37 to go, the Redmen were clinging to a 64-61 lead, thanks to the foul trouble of big man Shawnelle Scott and their troubles in hanging on to the ball.

But Texas Tech's poor shooting eventually did it in. At one point during the stretch, the Red Raiders (18-12) missed 13 of 14 attempts and St. John's steadily widened its lead to the finish.

Despite 26 points by All-SWC forward Will Flemons, the undersized and outmanned (only nine players) Red Raiders couldn't maintain the pace. They shot 23.3 percent from the field in the second half.

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