Goodbye Wisconsin, Hello Sweet 16

By Troy A. Sparks, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: March 21, 2010

MILWAUKEE (BASN) — Four teams went home Friday as losers and four remain for two spots in the Sweet Sixteen.

At the Bradley Center Sunday, the second round doubleheader was everything that fans expected.

I had the same seat in the media overflow as on Friday. This time, I was heckled by three women who sat directly behind me, all Georgia Tech fans. And they were loud and talking trash before the first game of the second round between Georgia Tech and Ohio State.

One of the women was so assertive when the Yellow Jackets took a 12-4 lead early in the half. She sat behind me and kept tapping my shoulder when Tech was up by eight points.

Ohio State’s Evan Turner got it going with two free-throws.

Jon Diebler hit three free-throws. Then it was Turner again with a three to cut the Tech margin to 14-12 as they went on an 8-2 run at the 12:14 mark.

That woman — I found out later — was Tech coach Paul Hewitt’s wife, Dawnette. Sitting next to her were Fay O’Connor, wife of Tech’s assistant coach John and Aisha LaBarrie, wife of assistant Darryl LaBarrie.

For once, I felt overmatched by three women who were on my case after I told them I was rooting for the Big Ten team to win the game. Of the three, O’Connor was the loudest.

She called Turner an overrated player and thought he got the benefit of some early calls. I told her that the Big Ten Player of the Year is supposed to get some breaks. Between David Lighty and Turner, they helped the Buckeyes turn a 1-point deficit into a 28-26 halftime lead.

“I was just trying to take what the defense gave me,” Turner said after the game. “I was trying to go at the right time and defensively just try to try my best to make plays and get everybody involved and definitely concentrate a little bit more on finishing shots.”

When Ohio State caught fire in the second half, the three women behind me were quiet for almost six minutes as the Buckeyes opened up a 14-point lead. They made some noise again as Tech scored 11 straight points late in the game to trail 65-61.

In the end, the Bucks held off the Yellow Jackets, and the three coaches’ wives had disappointed looks as another Georgia Tech season came to an end. The Tech players took the loss very hard, and one selected player who was brought into the media interview area had little to say.

“We were just inconsistent,” D’Andre Bell said. “Certain points we showed how great we can be.

And that’s that.” It’s too late for a Tech player to say that they can be great. Maybe next year they can be great, but their season was done.

Opportunities came and went.

In the second game, Pittsburgh and Xavier battled from start to end. It was the Jordan Crawford show, and he didn’t disappoint. He scored 27 points for the Musketeers, which included 17 in the second half. Xavier had a 35-28 halftime lead.

Jordan hit a three to start the second half. He had eight straight points for Xavier to give the Musketeers a 13-point lead, which was the biggest of the game. But the Panthers came roaring back and kept the margin under single digits from the 12:46 mark on.

Down 71-68, Pitt’s Brad Wanamaker missed a three-pointer at the buzzer. Xavier escaped with a 71-68 win to claim the last spot in the Sweet Sixteen from the BC.

Once again, when it counted, Crawford saved the day for the Musketeers. “He’s been doing that all year,” Jamel McLean said. “Put the Superman cape on because he’s on fire right now. That’s what great players do.”

For Crawford, this year’s tournament is his coming out party, maybe putting his skills on display for NBA scouts in case he puts his name in the draft. “I could always do it,” he said. “I just wasn’t always able to play.

I was sitting out a couple of years.”

“So it’s just the first time people are getting to see it.”

Maybe the Bradley Center will host an NCAA tournament in another five years.