TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Western Kentucky didn't need a buzzer-beater
Behind Courtney Lee's dazzling first-half performance and some
clutch shooting down the stretch, the 12th-seeded Hilltoppers
advanced to the round of 16 for the first time in 15 years with a
72-63 victory over No. 13 San Diego on Sunday.
Now comes the toughest test.
Western Kentucky (29-6) will face top-seeded UCLA in the West
Region semifinals in Phoenix. The Hilltoppers can only hope their
three senior guards - Lee, Tyrone Brazelton and Ty Rogers - will
carry them through another round.
Lee finished with 29 points, including a huge 3-pointer that
gave his team the lead for good with 6:17 remaining. Six straight
free throws in the final 34 seconds that sealed the victory.
Brazelton added 15 points for the Hilltoppers. Rogers, who hit
the 26-footer at the buzzer in overtime to beat Drake in the first
round, had a much quieter afternoon. He had five points, three
rebounds and two assists.
Gyno Pomare had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Toreros
(22-14), who overcame a 15-point deficit in the second half before
fading in the closing minutes.
Devin Ginty's 3-pointer capped an 18-2 run that turned a
lopsided game into a nail-biter with about 6 minutes to play.
That may have been the scare the Hilltoppers needed. Afterall,
they blew a 16-point lead against Drake before prevailing in the
extra frame on Rogers' huge shot.
This time, Lee was the go-to guy.
His 3-pointer came a few seconds after Ginty gave San Diego a
55-54 lead, the Toreros' first since going up 5-4 early.
Brazelton hit another 3 a few minutes later, then Western
Kentucky pulled away from the free throw line as San Diego kept
Considering what he did in the first half, it was no surprise
Lee got the ball in the final minute.
The Hilltoppers shot 57 percent in the first half, a sizzling
start that helped them open a 10-point lead in the first 10-plus
minutes. They stretched it 37-23 with an 8-0 spurt just before
Lee was San Diego's biggest matchup problem.
Western Kentucky's leading scorer was 8-of-11 shooting and had
19 points in the first 20 minutes.
Maybe the Toreros should have known they were in for a long
afternoon when they lost the opening tip and then watched Lee drive
for an easy layup. His 3-pointer a few minutes later gave the
Hilltoppers a 7-5 lead they never relinquished.
Lee hit a bank shot, two runners in the lane and finished the
first half 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
The Toreros switched defenders several times in an effort to
slow him down, but nothing worked.
Lee was clearly feeling it. He even waived off Rogers once
before hitting a pull-up jumper in the lane.
Pomare kept the Toreros close, despite 17 turnovers and 4-of-15
shooting from 3-point range. After hitting 10 of 12 shots before
fouling out in Friday's game, Pomare finished 7-of-10 from the
It wasn't enough.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)