March 9, 2003
ATLANTA -- Troy State coach Don Maestri showed his players a video collection of former NBA greats to motivate them the night before the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament final.
George Mikan. Bill Russell. Julius Erving. All champions. Now, the Trojans are, too.
Troy State, in the conference final for the second time in three seasons, beat Central Florida 80-69 Saturday to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
"Any level, any year, winning championships feels the same," Maestri said. "It's the ultimate feeling in team sports. There's no real difference."
Tournament MVP Ben Fletcher scored 19 of his season-high 29 in the first half for Troy State (26-5), the No. 3 seed. Ed Dotson had 19 points for UCF (21-11), the No. 5 seed.
BIG SOUTH: Losing record? Who cares? North Carolina Asheville is going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. "This is what we dream about," guard Andre Smith said after the Bulldogs beat Radford 85-71 in Lynchburg, Va. The Bulldgos (14-16) are the 17th team with a losing record to make the tournament.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC: Mike Ames scored 21 and Delaware held George Mason to 18 first-half points in a 61-49 quarterfinal win in Richmond, Va. Fifth-seeded Delaware (15-13) faces top-seeded North Carolina-Wilmington (22-6), which topped Hofstra 76-56, today. Virginia Commonwealth defeated James Madison 73-53. The Rams (18-9) face Drexel (18-10), a 61-52 winner over Old Dominion.
HORIZON: Joel Cornette scored 19 as top-seeded Butler (25-4) defeated Detroit 58-55 in a semifinal at Milwaukee. Butler faces Wisconsin-Milwaukee (23-7), a 75-73 winner over Illinois-Chicago, Tuesday night.
NORTHEAST: Rashaun Banjo scored 20 to lead Quinnipiac (17-11) 75-57 over St. Francis (Pa.) in a quarterfinal at New York. The fourth-seeded Bobcats face top-seeded Wagner (19-10), an 86-66 winner over Long Island University, today. Seventh-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson (15-13) won 63-51 over second-seeded Monmouth. The Knights meet sixth-seeded St. Francis, N.Y. (13-15), which beat Central Connecticut State 67-62.
OHIO VALLEY: Corey Gipson and Anthony Davis each scored 13 to lead Austin Peay 63-57 over Tennessee Tech in Nashville, giving the Governors their fifth NCAA Tournament berth. Austin Peay (23-7) won its third tournament title and will make its first NCAA appearance since 1996. The Golden Eagles (20-12) outrebounded Austin Peay 37-32 but made three field goals in the final five minutes.
PATRIOT LEAGUE: Kevin Bettencourt scored 16 to lead Bucknell 52-47 over Lehigh in a quarterfinal in Upper Marlboro, Md. The Bison (14-14) face top-seeded Holy Cross (24-4), which beat Army 58-40, today. Steven Miles scored 18 to lead second-seeded American 72-57 over Navy. American (15-13) faces sixth-seeded Lafayette, which beat Colgate 89-76.
SOUTHERN: The "Little Fella" led East Tennessee back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years. Tim Smith, a 5-foot-9 freshman spurred by singsong chants of his nickname by the opposing pep band, scored 25 in North Charleston, S.C., as the Bucs (20-10) beat Chattanooga 97-90 to win their first tournament title since a run of four from 1989-92.
SUN BELT: B.J. Pratt scored 24 and made five free throws in the final 52 seconds to lead Denver (17-14) 72-68 over Louisiana-Lafayette in the quarterfinal round at Bowling Green, Ky. David Boyden scored 17 as Western Kentucky (21-8) beat Florida International 71-60.