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Devon Lamb and Mike James each had 16 points and Anthony Miles 14 for Lamar (23-12), which had won six in a row since first-year coach Pat Knight ripped his seniors after a loss in late February. He said then that they were “stealing money being on scholarship” and that his players had problems “off the court, on the court, classroom, drugs.”

But after the NCAA loss, an emotional Knight fought back tears as he spoke about players who he said would turn the Lamar program around.

“These guys did a heck of a job of leaving their legacy. If there are people that disagree about that, they’re morons,” Knight said, sounding a little like his father, Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight. “These guys just made Lamar relevant again. What a ride. These guys, boy, I’ll be talking about them until the day I die.”

Victor Rudd Jr. had 15 points, Anthony Collins 12, Augustus Gilchrist 11 and Jawanza Poland 10 in the rout by South Florida (21-13), which moves on to play fifth-seeded Temple in Nashville on Friday.

But it wasn’t the Bulls’ shooting _ 57 percent from the field _ that left the biggest mark on Cal (24-10). The Bulls’ defense contested every shot, scrapped for every loose ball and muscled away rebounds.

Collins had seen Mississippi Valley State and Iona blow those big leads. He wasn’t going to let it happen to the Bulls.

“Those teams played up and down, playing fast, but they still would come down and take bad shots,” he said. “We wanted to run some time and get good shots.”

They sure did.

No wonder Cal coach Mike Montgomery was so stunned by the horror show of a first half.

“I didn’t imagine that happening,” he said.

It was the first NCAA tournament win ever for South Florida’s program.

“We’re all thrilled _ the president, the AD _ it’s always great to keep your bosses happy,” coach Stan Heath said. “But we didn’t want to come here for just one game. We did want to prove that we belong and that we’re legit. The kids took that to heart.”

And they did it by storming to a lead and then _ unlike others _ not giving it up.


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