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BC avoids early exit

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SALT LAKE CITY -- It felt more like time for brunch than for basketball, and Boston College was almost toast.

After a run to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title game and a narrow loss to Duke, the Eagles became a chic pick for the Final Four.

They almost didn't make it to the second round.

Pacific, its upset credentials established after upending Pittsburgh last season and Providence two seasons ago, very nearly pulled off its biggest yet, taking the fourth-seeded Eagles to double overtime before losing, 88-76, in a first-round NCAA tournament game that began at 10:40 a.m. local time at Salt Lake City's Huntsman Center.

"I'm proud as heck of our team, and we're just disappointed we don't have a chance to go on," Pacific coach Bob Thomason said.

Led by Christian Maraker's 30-point, nine-rebound performance, Pacific rallied from 13 points down in the second half to force overtime when Maraker was left wide-open for a three-pointer with 11 seconds left.

Two three-pointers by Mike Webb gave Pacific a six-point lead in the first overtime. The Tigers still led by two with 21 seconds left when Michael White missed a baseline shot before BC's Craig Smith tied the game with two free throws to send the game to a second overtime.

Thomason didn't like the foul call on Maraker with 4.3 seconds left against the burly Smith, who muscled his way inside, saying Maraker played him straight up.

"I don't want to get fined or anything, but it's a call you don't see much in college basketball," he said.

Smith, a 66 percent free-throw shooter, made both to extend the game.

"We kept our composure," said Smith, who led BC with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Pacific (24-8) had one last good opportunity, nearly getting a chance to win at the buzzer, but White couldn't get a shot off in time after Gray found him open under the basket.

The second overtime started with an alley-oop dunk for Boston College's Sean Williams and went BC's way from there, including a three-pointer for a five-point lead by Tyrese Rice, who was 0-for-5 on three-pointers until then.

Pacific made 10 three-pointers in the game - "After some shots went down, and the crowd is pulling for you, it's almost like playing at home," Webb said - but missed all six three-pointers in the second overtime.

The fans were on Pacific's side, but Boston College (27-7) got the last word.

With 30 seconds left in the second overtime, the chants of "overrated, overrated" poured from the stands. By then, the BC players knew they were going to survive and advance.

Smith heard the chant and the clapping, looked up at the Huntsman Center crowd, and put his hands together with the fans, mimicking their rhythm.

Williams looked up too, and he waved goodbye.

Guard Louis Hinnant said the Boston College players understood.

"As far as the fans, I can say that the NCAA tournament is really about the Cinderella story," he said. "People look forward to having the underdog come up and win.

"Fortunately for us, we didn't allow that to happen."

MONTANA 87, NEVADA 79 -- It seemed a lot more like a Big Sky Conference game from years past than an NCAA tournament upset.

Montana and Nevada were Big Sky rivals from 1979 to 1992, but the 12th-seeded Grizzlies upset the fifth-seeded Wolf Pack in a first-round NCAA tournament game at the Huntsman Center that Montana controlled so thoroughly that there wasn't even much jumping around when it was over.

"Our team isn't a team that goes and celebrates by hooting and hollering," Montana guard Kevin Criswell said.

Larry Krystkowiak, the former NBA player now known in Montana as "Coach K" after returning to his alma mater to coach last season, called it a game for the scrapbook.

"But right now, we don't break out the scrapbook. We are just trying to move forward from where we are," he said.

Nevada (27-6), the winner of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, brought a 14-game winning streak into the game. But the Wolf Pack never led and trailed by as many as 16. The last time Nevada trimmed the lead to three was with six minutes left, but Montana answered with a 9-0 run.

Andrew Strait led Montana (24-6) with 22 points and seven assists, and three other players were in double figures. Virgil Matthews scored 20 and had seven assists for the Grizzlies.

Nevada's best player, Nick Fazekas, had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and he and Marcelus Kemp, who scored 34 points, combined for 58. But only three other players scored for the Wolf Pack.

"This is tough for us as a team," Fazekas said. "They kept switching defenses, and we couldn't ever get a really good rhythm, but we just missed a lot of shots that we usually make."

It was a sour end for Nevada (27-6), which last season upset Texas in the first round before losing to Illinois.

"The madness of March," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "This year, we're on the wrong side of it."

Jacksonville, Fla.

WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE 82, OKLAHOMA 74 -- Pulling off their third major upset in two years, the 11th-seeded Horizon League champion Panthers got 24 points apiece from Joah Tucker and Boo Davis to eliminate the No. 6 seed Sooners.

Tucker, one of the stars in Milwaukee's stunning run to the round of 16 last season, scored nine during a 23-7 surge that carried the Panthers (22-8) to a 60-46 lead with just over seven minutes to go.

The closest Oklahoma (20-9) got the rest of the way was six. Terrell Everett led the Sooners with 21 points, but most of his production came after it was too late.

With four starters back - but without coach Bruce Pearl, now at Tennessee - from the team that upset Alabama and Boston College before losing to eventual national finalist Illinois in last year's tournament, Milwaukee had both the experience and confidence necessary to get the job done again against an Oklahoma team that many felt underachieved in finishing third in the Big 12.

"That's where experience comes in," said Tucker, one of five fifth-year seniors who start for Milwaukee.

"You know there's going to be runs in the game. You've got to find a way to stop the runs. ... We had to find ways to get baskets and get to the free-throw line. But the most important thing is that we stayed poised."

Inconsistency undermined the Sooners all season, and it looked like they could be in for a long afternoon when Tucker's high-arcing three-pointer put Milwaukee up 24-14 with just over eight minutes left in the opening half.

But just as quickly as it appeared the game might be slipping away, Michael Neal hit a three-pointer and Kevin Bookout made two easy baskets to start a 17-9 run that closed Oklahoma's deficit to 33-31 at the half.

The Sooners closed the gap despite playing the last three minutes of the half without Bookout, who walked off clutching his already taped left wrist after getting tangled with a Milwaukee player and tumbling to the floor.

The Oklahoma forward returned for the start of the second half with his wrist taped even more heavily and finished with 14 points. David Godbold had 15 points and leading scorer Taj Gray had 13 before fouling out in the closing minutes.

FLORIDA 76, SOUTH ALABAMA 50 -- Lee Humphrey scored 20 points, including 12 on four three-pointers in the second half, and the third-seeded Gators beat the 14th-seeded Jaguars (24-7) in front of a partisan crowd at Veterans Memorial Arena.

Florida (28-6) extended its winning streak to six games and advanced to the second round of the Minneapolis Regional, where it will play Wisconsin-Milwaukee tomorrow.

Fueled by the boisterous crowd - Florida played about 75 miles from Gainesville - the Gators turned a six-point lead into a rout after halftime.

They did it with a flurry of dunks and three-pointers.

Joakim Noah and Al Horford combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds and dominated inside, not surprising considering Florida's significant size advantage.

Robyn Norwood writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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