SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When Massachusetts guard Mike Williams broke the middle finger on his shooting hand almost three weeks ago, he was expected to miss three to five weeks. And when the sophomore guard started yesterday's first-round NCAA tournament game against Pennsylvania, he was doing so mainly for defensive purposes.
champion Penn yesterday? He went on the offensive, tying a career high with 13 points -- including three important three-pointers in the second half -- that helped No. 3 seed Massachusetts hold off No. 14 seed Penn, 54-50, in an East Regional matchup at the Carrier Dome.
When Massachusetts coach John Calipari decided to start Williams, it was an attempt to stop Penn sophomore guard Jerome Allen, the Ivy League's co-Player of the Year who averaged 13.2 points. After breaking his finger diving to the floor in a game at West Virginia, Williams missed the Minutemen's next five games.
He scored just one point in the first half yesterday, and Massachusetts trailed by as many as eight points before halftime. But Williams hit a three-pointer with 14:57 left in the game to give Massachusetts a 33-30 lead.
That started a 10-2 run that helped Massachusetts to its biggest lead, 42-32, after a layup by Lou Roe with 11:17 left. The Quakers, making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1987, pulled to 46-43 on a layup by Allen with 5:41 left, but Williams answered with five straight points for a 51-43 lead.
Penn cut the lead to 51-48 with 1:49 left and had two opportunities to tie the game. But Allen and guard Matt Maloney missed three-point attempts.
"I didn't come in thinking about shooting, but in practice I was shooting well, so I knew if I was open I would take them," Williams said. "I don't think they felt I could hit them."
Harper Williams, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, had 10 points and 10 rebounds to help hold off the Quakers, whose 13-game winning streak ended.
"I'm sorry his hand wasn't hurt for a couple more days," said Penn coach Fran Dunphy. "He hit two huge threes that really hurt us."
Once again, an Ivy League team was knocked out in a competitive first-round game. Princeton, which recently has dominated the league, lost its four first-round games by a total of 15 points over the past four years. Penn, starting four sophomores and one junior, also proved it could be competitive.
But the result was far from satisfying.
"I'm very proud of my league and the way we compete," Dunphy said. "But we don't want to just compete here anymore -- we want some victories."
Virginia 78, Manhattan 66
Guard Cory Alexander tied a career high with 27 points and the Cavaliers held off Manhattan.
Alexander's game plan was to make sure slumping teammate Junior Burrough got off to a good start. But the shot opportunities that developed with Burrough (17 points) playing well were too tempting.
"I told him we had to get him going in order for us to do anything in the tournament," Alexander said of Burrough, a 14.8-points-per-game scorer who had just nine points in Virginia's loss to North Carolina in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. "But they sagged and wouldn't play me. So I had to make them pay for it."
Manhattan, champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, trailed by eight points at the half and was down 70-63 after a three-pointer by guard Brenton Birmingham with 1:26 left. But the Jaspers shot poorly throughout and never really posed a threat to Virginia in the second half.
A 46.5-percent shooting team this season, Manhattan shot just 38.1 percent for the game. The starting backcourt of Birmingham and Chris Williams was 6-for-23 from the field.
"I was 0-for-Syracuse," said Williams, who missed all seven of his shots and finished with two points. "You can't win games if you don't knock down your shots."
Alexander had no problem doing that, connecting on four of nine three-pointers. He grabbed seven rebounds and did an excellent job controlling the game's tempo.
"Going in we were kind of worried about the depth perceptions, but this is a nice shooting gym," Alexander said. "I can see why [Syracuse] gets so many wins on this floor. It's a nice place to play."
The loss was a quick exit for Manhattan, which was making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1958, when the
Jaspers upset top-ranked West Virginia and All-America guard Jerry West in a first-round game.
"They played with a lot of confidence," said Manhattan coach Fran Fraschilla. "We got a lot of shots, but we just weren't making the ones that we had made all year."
N.M. State 93, Nebraska 79
No. 7 seed New Mexico State (26-7) advanced to the second round with a victory over No. 11 seed Nebraska (20-11).
Senior point guard Sam Crawford, whose 9.0 assists per game led the nation, established an NCAA tournament single-game record with 16.
Crawford, 5 feet 8, 155 pounds, had eight assists in the first half in helping the Aggies to a 42-39 halftime lead.
"When you have Sam out there, you have to know where he's at," said Nebraska center Derrick Chandler. "He always found the open man. By the time we recovered, they were going up for dunks."
Nebraska tied the game at 42 after Chandler converted a three-point play in the opening minute of the second half. The Cornhuskers tied at 49 with 16:19 left after a three-pointer by guard Eric Piatowski.
With Crawford continuing to find the open man and, with forwards Cliff Reed and Tracy Ware dominating the inside, the Aggies won going away to advance to tomorrow's second round against No. 2 seed Cincinnati, which beat No. 15 seed Coppin State, 93-66.
"I thought things were going to start going good for us," Piatowski said. "But we just couldn't keep them off the boards."