Thursday, March 17, 2005
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Wisconsin-Milwaukee's players might not need to bring their IDs again. Now everyone knows who they are.
The Panthers, briefly barred from practicing Wednesday when they couldn't produce their student passes, pulled off the first upset of the NCAA tournament, stunning Alabama 83-73 on Thursday.
Joah Tucker and Ed McCants scored 21 points apiece as Milwaukee (25-5) won its first NCAA tourney game in its second try. Two years ago, the 12th-seeded Panthers nearly knocked off Notre Dame, losing 70-69.
The underrated Horizon League champions finished the job this time, outplaying one of the SEC's top programs and continuing a trend of No. 12s beating No. 5s in March. That first-round matchup has produced an upset in 16 of the past 17 tournaments, the only exception being in 2000.
Kennedy Winston had 20 points and Ronald Steele 16 for the Crimson Tide (24-8), who had hoped to have another run like a year ago when they made it to the round of eight. But Alabama got outplayed by a lesser-known opponent from a little-known conference playing in a friendly arena.
If anyone has a home-court advantage it's the Panthers, who won here three weeks ago and have four straight victories on Cleveland State's home floor.
Milwaukee, which has won 10 straight and 18 of 19, will play the winner of Thursday's second game in the Chicago Regional between fourth-seeded Boston College (24-4) and 13th-seeded Pennsylvania (20-8) on Saturday.
McCants, the Horizon's player of the year, arrived at the Wolstein Center with a freshly shaved head. Maybe the senior psychology major was trying to make his team look meaner, but whatever his message, the Crimson Tide were the ones who looked like the mid-major team.
Alabama turned the ball over 19 times, twice in the final minute while trying to rally.
The Panthers made 10 3-pointers in the first half to build a 13-point halftime lead that Alabama trimmed to five on Steele's 3-pointer with 13:02 left.
But Milwaukee didn't get flustered and reeled off six straight points, eventually building its lead back to 13 at 74-63 on a 3-pointer from McCants with 2:22 remaining.
Alabama's Jean Felix hit consecutive 3s and Alabama was only down 79-73 with 1:03 left. But Boo Davis made two free throws and McCants got free for a breakaway dunk as the Panthers closed it out.
After the final horn, Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl, who filled in for an NCAA tournament game in 1981 as Boston College's mascot, walked across midcourt pointing his index fingers at the Panthers' fans, who were sitting almost directly below the school's black-and-gold banner hanging overhead.
On Wednesday, McCants said he can detect when another team has been rattled by the Panthers' full-court press.
And the Crimson Tide were shaky early, committing seven turnovers in the first nine minutes as Milwaukee bolted to a 27-15 lead on Adrian Tigert's 3-pointer. Alabama's players seemed stunned by the early deficit and not exactly sure about what to do about it.
Milwaukee extended its lead to 17 on Derrick Ford's layup before Alabama began to get it together, pulling within 40-32 on Winston's dunk. But the Crimson Tide got sloppy with the ball and the Panthers pounced as Chris Hill's 3-pointer with 28 seconds left put Milwaukee up 45-32 at the half.
(Photos by Kent Gidley)
Jermareo Davidson jams one home.
Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson fight for a rebound.
Chuck Davis hammers the rim with a dunk.
Chuck Davis plays tight defense.
Kennedy Winston stuffs one on a fast break.
Jean Felix looks to pass under the basket.
Jean Felix fights for a loose ball.
Coach Gottfried calls out instructions.
Earnest Shelton lays the ball up.
Ronald Steele shoots a one-hander in the paint.
Kennedy Winston talks to Coach Gottfried.
Ronald Steele battles for the ball.
Kennedy Winston shoots over two defenders.
Coach Gottfried sees the Tide fall in the first round.
Coach Gottfried congratulates UWM coach Bruce Pearl.
Kennedy Winston chats with UWM coach Bruce Pearl.