A BIG UPSET
With .1 of asecond to go in its Greensboro Regional semifinal, all that top-seeded Dukeneeded to do to beat Rutgers and advance to the Elite Eight was make two freethrows. Senior point guard Lindsey Harding, the ACC player of the year and a75.9% foul shooter, was at the line.
There was no oneDuke coach Gail Goestenkors would rather have had there with the season in thebalance. "I love having the ball in Lindsey's hands," she said later.With Rutgers up 53--52, Harding needed to make one to tie, two to win.Improbably, she clanged both off the back of the rim. After the buzzer sounded,Harding fell to the ground and covered her face with her hands in disbelief asher teammates rushed to console her. "My heart breaks for her," saidGoestenkors after the game. "I don't want this to be her lasting memory.She has meant so much to this program for so many years."
Duke's loss setup an Elite Eight matchup between No. 4 seed Rutgers and No. 3 seed ArizonaState, teams that were scheduled to meet in November in a tournament in theVirgin Islands. But on the morning of the game, Jordan Johnson, the 15-year-oldbrother of Arizona State forward Aubree Johnson, was found dead in his hotel,the victim of complications from an enlarged heart. The game was canceled, andboth teams returned home. The Sun Devils played on in memory of Jordan, and theScarlet Knights matured into one of the nation's toughest defensive teams. Whenthey finally met on Monday night, Rutgers rolled to a 64--45 victory--and itssecond Final Four.
A COACH WHOWOULDN'T GIVE UP
One of NorthCarolina State coach Kay Yow's favorite sayings is, "When life kicks you,let it kick you forward." So when the Hall of Famer returned to the benchon Jan. 25 after taking a leave to battle stage 4 breast cancer, her 13--7 teamstarted playing at a higher level, notching Yow's 700th career win as it went12--2 to reach the Sweet 16. "Having Coach Yow back motivated us," saidforward Khadijah Whittington. "Her fight has been an inspiration."
Yow, 65, who haslost her hair, her appetite, and much of her energy to ongoing chemotherapytreatments, flew from Raleigh to Fresno last Thursday with her nurse, AngelaVaughan, at her side and an IV in her arm. Yow had blood drawn at a clinic tocheck her platelet levels every day in Fresno. Yet before Saturday's gameVaughan reported that Yow was looking "the best I've seen her in a longtime." Her team looked strong, too, at least at the outset. But aftertaking a 37--36 halftime lead over top-seeded Connecticut, N.C. State wilted inthe second half and lost 78--71, bringing an end to an inspiring tournamentrun. Even Huskies coach Geno Auriemma looked chagrined, later expressing hismixed feelings about having to play "the bad guy."
As she walked offthe court, for perhaps the last time, Yow gave the Wolfpack hand signal. Fansof N.C. State, UConn, LSU and Florida State alike stood and applauded.
RISING TO THE OCCASION Matee Ajavon's team-high 20 points helped Rutgers stun top-seeded Duke in the regional semis.