March 15, 2002
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Roy Williams might need to trade in his good-luck charm.
The Kansas coach, whose top-seeded Jayhawks are practicing this week on the campus of Saint Louis University, made a point to "rub the belly of the Billiken" - a statue of the school's mascot - before opening the NCAA tournament against Patriot League champ Holy Cross.
And after escaping with a 70-59 win on Thursday, Williams won't be back for a second touch before Kansas continues in the Midwest Regional with a second-round game on Saturday against No. 8 Stanford, an 84-68 winner over Western Kentucky.
"I do believe he's going to have to get his thrills some other way," Williams said. "I'd have done as much good if I'd rubbed my own belly."
As it was, fans in St. Louis looking for an upset were treated to 12th-seeded Tulsa's 71-69 win over No. 5 seed Marquette in the East Regional.
The Golden Hurricane, said first-year coach John Phillips, are convinced they can beat fourth-seeded Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats beat No. 13 seed Valparaiso 83-68 to open Thursday's play at the Edward Jones Dome.
"If they want to believe that, that's fine with me," Phillips said. "I'll go along for the ride."
Kentucky's coach, Tubby Smith, led Tulsa to the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in 1994 and '95.
Williams' joke about the Billiken was all the humor he allowed himself following the Jayhawks' narrow win over the Crusaders, who led 37-35 at halftime and for about 30 minutes seriously flirted with becoming the first No. 16 seed in NCAA tournament history to win a first-round game.
"I was happy to get here, but I'm not happy to be here," said Holy Cross' Patrick Whearty, who finished with 12 points. "I wanted to win."
As a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament last year, Holy Cross (18-15) scared Kentucky in the first round before losing 72-68. The Crusaders got a boost to their chances this year when Kansas' Kirk Hinrich, an All-Big 12 guard averaging 15.4 points, sprained his left ankle late in the first half and left the game.
But playing the aggressive, pressure defense that led them to the first undefeated regular season in the history of the Big 12, the Jayhawks (30-3) simply wore out the Crusaders' lineup.
"It may sound stupid, but we believed that we could beat this team," said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard. "It was not a matter of believing we would beat Kansas, but a matter of believing we would have an opportunity to beat Kansas.
"Kansas is so difficult to play because you work so hard on offense, as well as defense."
Williams pleaded ignorance about the Jayhawks' plans for Saturday, which might not include Hinrich. X-rays taken during the game were negative, but Williams said afterward the team didn't yet know his status for the weekend.
"Hopefully, Kirk will get a miracle and his ankle will be ready for the next war," said Drew Gooden, who led Kansas with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The biggest test for Kansas might come Saturday against Stanford, only because of the Jayhawks' own history. Of the five times since 1986 the Jayhawks have held a No. 1 seed, they've twice been bounded from the tournament in the second round.
Still, that No. 1 seed commands a lot of attention.
"We will treat that with the utmost of respect, as if that was our Final Four game," said Stanford coach Mike Montgomery.
Stanford (20-9) were led by Chris Borchardt's 19 points and 12 rebounds. Patrick Sparks had 20 points and nine assists to lead Western Kentucky (28-4).
The Cardinal, who have won eight straight games in the first round of the tournament, are used to playing as the top team - they've been a No. 1 seed in the previous two tournaments - not against it.
"If you guys have penciled us in, you're crazy," said junior Casey Jacobsen. "I like being in the underdog role."
In the East Regional, Keith Bogans had 21 points to lead Kentucky (21-9) past Valparaiso. It was the 12th straight opening-round victory for the Wildcats, who haven't lost a first-round NCAA tournament game since dropping a 91-77 decision to Ohio State in 1987.
Raitis Grafs led Valparaiso (25-8) with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Milo Stovall had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Wildcats will play Tulsa, which beat Marquette (26-7) on Greg Harrington's runner in the lane with 14.6 seconds left. The Golden Eagles had plenty of time to try to tie or win the game, but settled for Travis Diener's hasty 3-pointer from well beyond the arc that was an airball.
Antonio Reed scored 18 points, and Kevin Johnson added 14 for the Golden Hurricane (27-6). Dwyane Wade led Marquette, making its first tournament appearance since 1997, with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
By DAVID SCOTT
Associated Press Writer