OGDEN, Utah -- They sported T-shirts that read "In it to win it," the motto for a California team looking to advance further than their Sweet 16 appearance a year ago. A revised version: "Leaving town after one round."
The fifth-seeded Bears fell behind by as many as 19 points in the first half and wound up losing to No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay, 61-57, in the West Regional last night in the first major upset of the NCAA tournament.
California staged a furious comeback in the second half, and had a 56-55 lead after a free throw by guard Anwar McQueen with 2:44 left.
But the Bears managed just one free throw the rest of the way, and missed their last five shots from the field. When it was all over it was the California players who walked off the court with their heads bowed, while the Phoenix of Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-6) began a wild celebration at midcourt.
"Our poise down the stretch enabled us to hold on," Phoenix coach Dick Bennett said. "This is the kind of win that we feel -- we don't have words that can describe it, so we'll just enjoy it."
The Phoenix have little time to savor their victory. They will meet fourth-seeded Syracuse in the second round tomorrow.
While not one of the better known teams in the tournament, Wisconsin-Green Bay has been impressive this year, beating Marquette, North Carolina State and Oregon. The Phoenix, who won the Mid-Continent tournament championship, entered the NCAA tournament third in the nation in both scoring defense (54.7 points per game) and field-goal percentage defense (37.3 percent).
That defense put the clamps on California's scoring duo of point guard Jason Kidd and forward Lamond Murray. Kidd hit four of 17 shots from the field, scoring 12 points (four below his average). Murray, who averaged 24.5 points, hit six of 21 shots and scored 18. The Bears shot 33.9 percent for the game -- and just 25.0 percent in the first half when they hit one field goal in the first 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin-Green Bay was hitting one clutch shot after another. Center Jeff Nordgaard led the Phoenix with 24 points.
Syracuse 92, Hawaii 78
Fourth-seeded Syracuse used its size advantage in the backcourt to come back from a three-point halftime deficit to beat Hawaii and advance to tomorrow's second round against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Lawrence Moten, a 6-foot-5 guard, scored a game-high 29 points and 6-4 point guard Adrian Autry added 16 points and nine assists for the Orangemen (22-6).
Autry was particularly effective in the second half when he repeatedly backed down Hawaii's 6-1 guard Jarinn Akana. When Autry wasn't scoring -- he had 11 in the second half -- he was finding open teammates for easy scores.
"[Autry] was able to look over our smaller guards," said Akana, who scored 18 -- but just four in the second half. "Size was definitely a factor."
Factor enough that all but two of the team's 20 second-half field goals came from in the paint. The Orangemen, who trailed by five early in the second half, hit 20 of 29 shots over the final 20 minutes as fatigue slowed the Rainbows.
The Syracuse defense also did well in the second half against Hawaii guard Trevor Ruffin, who led the Rainbows with 24 points. Ruffin was hot in the first half when he scored 15 points and hit four of six three-pointers -- several from 25 feet and beyond.
Rashard Griffith and Michael Finley weren't about to let 25th-ranked Cincinnati spoil Wisconsin's first visit to the NCAAs in nearly five decades.
Griffith, a 6-foot-11 freshman center, scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Badgers upset the Bearcats in the first round.
Finley also scored 22 points -- including four three-pointers -- as Wisconsin (18-10) advanced to a second-round game tomorrow against top-seeded Missouri, which beat Navy.
Wisconsin hadn't played in the NCAA tournament since 1947, when the Badgers were eliminated by Navy in the second round. Wisconsin won the NCAA title in 1941, its only other appearance.