Late game doesn't sit well with Sutton NCAA TOURNAMENT


Upon arriving a few minutes late for yesterday's 3:45 p.m. news conference at the Baltimore Arena, Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton apologized, then offered an excuse.

"I just got up," he said.

But seriously folks, Sutton had a real problem with the starting time of the Cowboys' first-round game against Drexel on Thursday night.

After Alabama-Penn went into overtime, Oklahoma State tipped off at 10:25 p.m., and the Cowboys will come back on about 36 hours' rest today against the Crimson Tide.

Sutton and his players said that spending an entire day and most of an evening waiting to play affected the quality of Thursday's late-night action. The first half featured an abysmal offensive performance from both teams, although the Cowboys got untracked and easily put away Drexel, 73-49.

"That was a really strange situation," Sutton said. "I don't think it's fair to either team. It's not fair to play a game that late.

"Television puts so much money into this tournament, and I understand you have to go along with them. But when you have an East Coast game that's the last game being played in the country, there's something wrong. I think you guys [the media] would get tired of lying around in a hotel all day long."

"It definitely upset our routine," added senior center Bryant Reeves. "We're used to playing at 6:30, 7 or 8. When you don't tip off until 10:25, it makes for a very long day. We had a very short night. We're just trying to catch up on our rest today."

Maryland was another high seed that saw its second-round opponent play first in the opening round, and the NCAA basketball committee doesn't necessarily approve.

"If you have the late game on Thursday night and the early game on Saturday, you really are at a disadvantage," said Terry Holland, who sits on the nine-man NCAA basketball committee. "Each committee member would like to eliminate the 10 o'clock game. We fight it as best we can, but CBS has the right to set the games."

Holland's assignment this weekend has been overseeing the tournament at the Arena. He praised UMBC's organization of the tournament's first appearance in Baltimore, and the only discouraging comment he made echoed earlier ones about the Arena's capacity.

"The only problem I can imagine we've had is that more people couldn't get in," Holland said. "The facility's in a good location, and with the hotels being so close, I think it's been a great place for the players and the fans. When you factor in the weather and the Inner Harbor, this has been a pretty good visit."

No rest for Cowboys

Although Oklahoma State's players didn't get to bed until about 2 a.m. yesterday, that didn't disrupt a full day of fun and work.

The team had breakfast at 10:30, then went to Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- which they had toured a day earlier -- where they spent 25 minutes lifting weights. Then, it was off to UMBC for a light, 90-minute practice.

After that, Sutton, Reeves and forward Terry Collins went to the Arena to meet with the media, while the rest of the team took off with family members for Washington.

They met President Clinton during a White House tour -- Sutton coached Arkansas during 1975-85 -- then went to the Capitol, where they were greeted by Sen. Don Nickles, a Republican from Oklahoma.

By 6 p.m., they were on a bus back to Baltimore, where they presumably would get a good night's sleep.


Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said that Randolph Childress should be close to 100 percent for today's game against Saint Louis. "The cold, flu, whatever he's got, it's more of a bother than it is a problem. . . . Oklahoma State forward Collins, the Cowboys' forward, suffered a torn tendon on the index finger of his right hand after jamming it on the backboard in the Drexel game. Collins will play against Alabama with the index finger taped to his second finger.

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