Louisville's DeJuan Wheat went the extra mile to play in the East Regional final against North Carolina yesterday in Syracuse, N.Y. After spraining his left ankle in Friday night's win over Texas, the 6-foot senior had round-the-clock treatment.
He took anti-inflammatory medication both orally and by injection, had electronic, dynatron pulse and energy field stimulation, took warm and cold whirlpools and even slept on the hotel training table Friday night to continue treatments.
Wheat was treated until midnight Saturday, and was awakened at 5 a.m. yesterday for more therapy.
"He came over to me after we were almost done warming up," said Louisville coach Denny Crum. "I told him it was up to him, that I had no way to determine his ability to play. He said he wanted to play. He started every game in his career , and I probably would have started him and then taken him out [if Wheat couldn't play]."
The ankle injury took its toll. Wheat hit just two of 11 three-pointers and in his final college game, had just six points, 11 below his season average. But he also contributed eight assists.
"He did a job," said Crum. "He didn't play bad at all. Most of his shots were short, which is what you'd expect with an ankle injury. But he never quit and neither did the team."
Course: Holding Leads 101
There's going to be an addition to the spring course catalog at Arizona.
"Tomorrow we're starting a time management class," Lute Olson said after the Wildcats had squandered a sizable lead for the second time in three days. "We made some horrible decisions tonight that we can't afford to make again."
The Wildcats blew all of a 12-point lead in the last six minutes of regulation, and finished overtime with starting center A. J. Bramlett and all-Pac 10 forward Michael Dickerson on the bench with five fouls. The fact that they prevailed with a makeshift lineup didn't surprise Olson or his players."
"You talk about battlers, they're battlers," Olson said.
Miles Simon, the Most Outstanding Player in the regional, wasn't academically eligible when the Wildcats opened the season with a 83-73 win over North Carolina, their opponent in Saturday's NCAA semifinals.
Simon was joined on the all-tournament team by freshman point guard Mike Bibby, but forwards Dickerson and Bennett Davison were just as deserving.
Late in the first half, Providence guard God Shammgod drove the lane and drew a foul from center Bramlett. He shook his head, as if to say that the Wildcats couldn't stop him.
Bibby had disparaged Shammgod's shooting ability the day before, and the Providence sophomore quieted the Wildcats with maybe his best game of the year. He had 23 points, one shy of his season high, and five assists.
He had 10 points in the last six minutes of regulation.
"I just felt I had to step up my play and get us within striking range," Shammgod said.
The other players on the all-tournament team were Providence's Jamel Thomas, who had the three-pointer that sent it into overtime but otherwise shot 8-for-28, and Kansas' Paul Pierce.
North Carolina dominated the East Regional all-tournament team, taking four of the five spots. Guard Shammond Williams, who hit eight of 14 three-point shots in two games in Syracuse, was named the region's Most Outstanding Player.
"It's a team thing," Williams said. "The award goes to the team."
He joined teammates Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and reserve Ed Cota on the all-regional team.
The only non-Tar Heel pick was Louisville's Alex Sanders, who scored 37 points in two games on 15-for-26 shooting.
When Carolina took a 21-point lead into halftime against Louisville, there were instant reminders of the Tar Heels' Jan. 8 loss to Maryland in Chapel Hill.
"We had been in this situation before and failed," said Carter. "As soon as we got back in the locker room, somebody said 'Remember the Maryland game,' where we were up by 22 and lost by 10.
"It was pretty quiet in here at halftime. If you were in here, you'd think we were down."
Carolina weathered a furious second-half comeback by Louisville, and won going away.
"I didn't like the situation at all," said Williams. "But the most important thing was, we stayed focused."
The loss to Carolina was Crum's first in seven regional finals, while Dean Smith improved to 11-4 with a Final Four berth on the line. Interestingly, each of Carolina's three previous national championships were accomplished through the East Region.
Pub Date: 3/24/97