Rutherford wears out Alabama NCAA TOURNAMENT EAST REGIONAL


The game was run and chase, and for 38 minutes, Alabama stayed step-for-step with Oklahoma State's Randy Rutherford.

But when his opening finally came -- and Alabama finally tired -- the Cowboys' sharpshooter ushered the Crimson Tide out of the NCAA tournament.

"They got tired of chasing me the whole game," Rutherford said after he hit four straight three-point shots to turn a precarious two-point Oklahoma State lead into a commanding seven-point advantage. "I was running off screens the whole game and they got tired running off them."

The inside-outside combination of Bryant Reeves and Rutherford will escort the 25-9 Cowboys into the Sweet 16 for the third time in five years. They will meet Wake Forest on Friday in the East Regional in East Rutherford, N.J.

Reeves scored 26 points in his matchup with Alabama's precocious Antonio McDyess, but it wasn't until Rutherford, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, started raining treys that Oklahoma State was able to pull away.

It took a slight adjustment on those screens, and a change in defender, to get Rutherford on his game.

"I thought Alabama played terrific defense on Rutherford," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. "We have a rule: It's better to go late off a screen than early. And Randy has a tendency to go early. We told him to slow it down a bit, and we told his teammates to make darn sure they got a piece of the Alabama player."

Reeves and forward Scott Pierce set the screens, and point guard Andre Owens delivered the ball during a five-minute stretch that turned the game in the second half. Oklahoma State held a 37-35 lead, on a Reeves' lay-in, when the barrage began.

Rutherford hit his first three-pointer at 11:44, opening a 40-35 lead. Moments later, Alabama subbed Bryan Passink for Artie Griffin, who had done a marvelous job for 38 minutes.

At 8:31, with the lead still five, Rutherford struck again. And twice more in the next two minutes, Owens found him sliding off screens for the open shot. The fourth goal came with 6:30 left and padded the lead to 49-42. Alabama never got closer than five again.

"They had one of the guys off the bench guard Randy," Owens said. "He was not as quick as Randy. We had some great screens and Randy knocked the shots down. He's a great player who knows how to move without the ball."

Rutherford was a reluctant shooter, at best, in the first half, getting off only one three-point shot. He scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and had an impressive bottom line at the end. His seven rebounds matched Reeves for team high, and he chipped in four steals and four assists.

"One of my jobs is to shoot the ball," Rutherford said. "I turned down a couple shots in the first half, and Coach told me not to force the shots, but to take them if I was open. If I'm shooting well, I'll shoot the jumper. But I'm not going to hurt the team."

Alabama's near-perfect defensive effort went to waste in that one five-minute stretch.

"We just talked about our defensive intensity and tried to stop Rutherford from getting hot," said Alabama's Marvin Orange. "That's one thing we didn't want to happen. Unfortunately, he did. A player like that is eventually going to hit some shots. You give him a good look and he's going to make it."

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