Second Round West Sub-Regional Preview
March 17, 2000
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The McKale Center floor figures to take quite a beating when Oklahoma's Eduardo Najera and Purdue's Brian Cardinal butt heads Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Najera, the Sooners' All-Big 12 forward, and Cardinal, who leads the Boilermakers in scoring and rebounding, are known for their hustle and competitive fire.
They dive for loose balls, slide on the floor, take charges and throw their bodies around. Both rely on physical play, and it usually isn't pretty.
"Excuse me if they don't win the dunk contest. Excuse me if they don't fit the mold," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said Friday. "They're throwback guys. Those are guys that would look good in tight shorts. But those kids know how to play basketball."
Cardinal knows that his all-out style of play hasn't won him many friends outside his own locker room.
"I'm probably the most hated man in the Big Ten," Cardinal said. "Everywhere we go, it seems like there's a new person that hates me."
Najera and Cardinal will probably guard each other, at least for parts of the game. Cardinal, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in Purdue's first-round victory over Dayton, is a more dangerous outside shooter.
Najera, who averaged 18.8 points and 9.5 rebounds this season, is a more polished inside player. He had just 10 points and five rebounds in Oklahoma's easy win over Winthrop on Thursday, but he did leave his mark.
Early in the second half Najera deflected a pass and dove out of bounds to save the ball, crashing into two Sooners cheerleaders sitting along the baseline. It wound up as one of his three steals.
"They play a lot alike. They don't leave anything out on the floor," Purdue coach Gene Keady said.
Cardinal, who wears knee pads and elbow pads on the court, said he started looking for some protection just a few games into his freshman year.
"My knees would be all bloody and bruised up. So I figured I'd accept the fact that I was going to look goofy."
"That tells me what he has in mind," Sampson said.
FRIENDS NOW FOES: St. John's point guard Erick Barkley and Gonzaga floor general Matt Santangelo played together for the United States in the World University Games last summer.
"We hung out a couple of nights (in Spain)," Barkley said. "He's a great guy, fun to be around. He corrected me on the right way to say his school's name."
Barkley and Santangelo figure to go head-to-head for 94 feet most of the game Saturday night as the Red Storm take on the Bulldogs in the second round.
"He is considered one of the best point guards in America, and it will be fun to match up with the best," Santangelo said.
OWNING THE ARC: The 3 was key for all four teams that advanced to the second round in Tucson.
Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson came into his team's opening game against Winthrop worried about how his backcourt would perform. But Sooners guards hit 10-of-21 shots from long range (47.6 percent) while Winthrop made just 2-of-20. The 24-point disparity on 3-pointers equaled Oklahoma's margin of victory.
Purdue, which shot 27.2 percent from 3-point range over its last four games coming into the tournament, nailed 10-of-23 from behind the arc and got past Dayton by a point. The Flyers finished 2-for-17 on 3-pointers.
Gonzaga hit half of its 3-point attempts (8-of-16) and held Louisville to 37.5 percent shooting - including 2-for-17 from long range - as the 10th-seeded 'Zags took the first step toward another improbable tournament run.
Second-seeded St. John's survived a scare against No. 15 Northern Arizona despite connecting on only 3-of-13 deep shots. But the Red Storm limited the Lumberjacks, who made almost 40 percent of their 3-pointers this season, to 30.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
PICK AND ROLL: Purdue and Oklahoma met three years ago when Brian Cardinal and Eduardo Najera were both freshman, with the Sooners rolling to an 82-58 victory. "All I remember is that I didn't play much back then," Najera said. ...Gonzaga guard Richie Frahm, who scored 31 points in a first-round victory over Louisville, is known to be very superstitious. When coach Mark Few was asked about that he said, "Do we have an hour and a half?" Few said there are even certain things Frahm makes him say in his pregame speech.
By MIKE FITZPATRICK
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