Ole Miss Gets Set To Battle A Hot Arizona Squad

March 19, 2001

By DOUG TUCKER
AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - For a minute or so after Mississippi beat Notre Dame 59-56 in the Midwest Regional, All-American Troy Murphy just stood and stared.

He seemed reluctant to walk off the court Sunday, perhaps sensing the final seconds of a college career that made him a star and revived his school.

If the 6-foot-11 junior does declare for the NBA draft, it'll be bad news for Notre Dame. Murphy keyed the turnaround of an Irish program that until this year hadn't appeared in an NCAA tournament game in 11 seasons.

"I want what is best for him," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "He led this team back to the college map this year. If all I have is one season with him, I will be a happy man. He has a very important business decision to make."

Murphy had 17 points on Sunday, but he was just 1-of-7 in the second half as the Rebels' rugged defense pushed him farther and farther from the basket.

Murphy says he will sit down with Brey and others and weigh his options. But Brey clearly is bracing for news he does not want to hear.

"This could be it for the young man," he said. "We won't be chopped liver without him."

In the meantime, it will be height vs. heft when Mississsippi's Rahim Lockhart leans his wide body into Arizona 7-footer Loren Woods in the Midwest Regional semifinals Friday in San Antonio.

The 6-8 255-pound Lockhart, although double-teamed down low most of the day, scored 24 points for Ole Miss (27-7) against Notre Dame. By the end of the day, Lockhart seemed exhausted. He's bound to get another brisk workout against the second-seeded Wildcats (25-7), who had little trouble disposing of Butler 73-52.

"There aren't many people who can guard him one-on-one in the low post," Mississippi coach Rod Barnes said.

This will be Arizona's fourth regional semifinal in six years. The Wildcats have won 15 of their last 17. Mississippi is going to its first regional..

"We have a shot if we keep our mind on our business and play the way we're capable of playing. We have a shot against anybody," Arizona coach Lute Olson said.

Ole Miss regrouped after losing to Kentucky in the SEC tournament and edged Iona in the first round before holding off Notre Dame 59-56 Sunday.

The Wildcats will be certain to keep an eye on Ole Miss point guard Jason Harrison. The 5-foot-5 Harrison hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 46 seconds left against Notre Dame. Then David Sanders, after missing a free throw, blocked a shot by Notre Dame's Matt Carroll in the closing seconds.

"We're a defensive team, that's what got us here. We look for that last stop on defense," Sanders said.

The Rebels will be facing a more balanced Arizona team that Butler coach Thad Matta described as "definitely one of the best college basketball teams I've seen in a long time."

"We look forward to playing Arizona. They have a great team and great tradition. Right now we just want to savor this game," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said Sunday.

Arizona shut off Butler's perimeter game that had been so effective in the Bulldogs' first-round rout of Wake Forest. After making 8-of-15 3-pointers against Wake Forest, the Bulldogs managed just 6-of-26 against Arizona, including 2-of-16 in the second half.

"Our talent level is great," Olson said.

Still, Matta was upbeat. "This has probably been one of the top three seasons in Butler University history," he said.


 

 

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