Mississippi-Arizona Preview

March 21, 2001

GAME: No. 3 Mississippi (27-7) vs.
No. 2 Arizona (25-7).
REGIONAL: Midwest, Regional Semifinals.
TIME: Friday, 7:55 p.m. EST.
SITE: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas.

Mississippi heads into unchartered waters as it makes its first regional semifinal appearance in school history Friday when it plays Arizona at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

The third-seeded Rebels had made just four NCAA tournament appearances prior to this year and had won just one game. But Mississippi played well enough to advance with a pair of close victories by a combined five points, edging Iona in the first round and downing Notre Dame in the second round.

"It has sunk in that we are going to the Sweet 16," said Rebels coach Rod Barnes. "All the history and all that stuff I can't get caught up in or allow our players to get caught up in. The ultimate goal when you start this tournament is to win a national championship and if we get an opportunity to do that, after that game we will sit back and look at the season."

If the Rebels are to continue their unprecedented run, they will need another strong performance from center Rahim Lockhart like he provided in Sunday's 59-56 victory over Notre Dame. Lockhart finished with 24 points and seven rebounds for Mississippi, shooting 10-for-16 from the field.

"Our goals were not just to make it to the 'sweet sixteen'," Lockhart said. "You don't want to look back now on your career because my career isn't over yet. We have plenty of time after we finish to think about what we have done in our careers."

Arizona, the second seed, has played well in reaching the regional semifinals for the fourth time in the last six years. The Wildcats - one of four teams from the Pac-10 Conference to reach the regional semifinals - had little trouble with both Eastern Illinois and Butler, winning by a combined 46 points.

While Lute Olson's team played well offensively in the first two rounds, it was Arizona's defense which made the Wildcats a complete team. They held both opponents under 40 percent shooting in their two NCAA tournament wins and owned the boards with an 81-47 advantage.

"Nobody will make it to the Final Four without great defense," Olson said. "Us, Duke, Kentucky, Illinois, and take a look at what Temple has done. There is not going to be anybody in Minneapolis that isn't a good defensive team."

The Wildcats outrebounded Butler 38-15 in their 73-52 victory Sunday.

"I feel like were living up to our potential right now," said Wildcats guard Gilbert Arenas, who has 36 points in the two wins. "We have to come out and play every game like its our last. I would rather peak now in the end of the season than at the beginning of the season."

Mississippi won the only game between the teams, a 75-70 win at Memphis in 1953.

PROBABLE STARTERS:
Mississippi -
F Jason Flanigan (7.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Justin Reed (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), C Lockhart (13.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), G David Sanders (6.8 ppg, 1.9 apg), G Justin Holmes (6.4 ppg, 1.9 apg).
Arizona -
F Michael Wright (16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg), F Richard Jefferson (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), C Loren Woods (12.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Arenas (16.6 ppg, 2.3 apg), G Jason Gardner (10.5 ppg, 4.3 apg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Mississippi - At-large bid, Southeastern Conference, defeated No. 14 Iona 72-70, first round, defeated No. 6 Notre Dame 59-56, second round.
Arizona - At-large bid, Pac-10 Conference, defeated No. 15 Eastern Illinois 101-76, first round, defeated No. 10 Butler 73-52, second round.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD:
Mississippi - 3-4, 5 years.
Arizona - 29-18, 20 years.

 

 

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