- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Blake Griffin survived a WWE-style takedown to make sure Oklahoma rolled into the second round. Memphis, the other top seed in Kansas City, needed a lesser-known player to survive a scare from Cal-State Northridge: Roburt Sallie.

A 4.5-point scorer on the season, Sallie hit an opening-round record 10 3-pointers and scored 35 to help second-seeded Memphis hold off the Matadors 81-70 Thursday and avoid one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

“Coach just kept saying shoot the ball and they kept leaving me open,” said Sallie, who failed to score in nine games this season. “I got a lot of open looks today and I just hit the shots.”

It’s a good thing for Memphis (32-3).

Last year’s NCAA runner-up had its hands full with Northridge (17-14) for most of the game and was in danger of becoming just the fifth No. 2 seed to lose in the opening round since the NCAA’s 64-team format started in 1985.

The Tigers pulled it out, thanks to Sallie, and move on to face Maryland, which beat California 84-71 in the other West Region game. In the South Region, Oklahoma rolled over Morgan State 82-54, spoiling former disgraced Cal coach Todd Bozeman’s return to the NCAA tournament, and Michigan held off Clemson 62-59 in its first NCAA tournament game in 11 years.

Memphis nearly didn’t join that group.

The Tigers came out flat and allowed the crowd to get behind the Matadors, who lost one key player to a traffic accident and another to a burglary charge earlier in the season. Cal State Northridge, a 19-point underdog, led by seven early and was still up 62-56 when Vincent Cordell scored on a layup with just over 10 minutes left.

Sallie, of course, led Memphis back, hitting a 3-pointer to spark a decisive 9-0 run that pushed the Tigers to their nation-best 26th straight win. Sallie finished 10-of-15 from 3-point range to break the first-round mark _ set by Michigan’s Garde Thompson in 1987 _ by one, and set a school record for points in an NCAA tournament game. The rest of his more well-known teammates shot a combined 1-for-13 from beyond the arc.

“Obviously, we didn’t anticipate what Sallie was going to do today,” Northridge coach Bobby Braswell said.

Oklahoma 82, Morgan State 54, South Regional

Griffin had 28 points, 13 rebounds and, more importantly, came away unscathed after being flipped by Morgan State’s Ameer Ali in the second half.

Oklahoma (28-5) was safely ahead when Griffin and Ali got tangled in the lane. Ali appeared to lock arms with Griffin and bent over, sending the nation’s leading rebounder over his back and onto the court. Griffin, who missed most of two games with a concussion earlier in the season, trotted away and stayed in the game, while Ali was immediately ejected.

The takedown was about the only drama in this one.

The second-seeded Sooners, after losing four of six to end the regular season, took control early and never let Morgan State (23-12) have a chance in its first NCAA tournament appearance.

Reggie Holmes had 14 points to lead the Bears, who are coached by Bozeman, the former Cal coach who was banned from the NCAA for eight years after admitting to paying a recruit.

Taylor Griffin, Blake’s brother, added 18 points and Willie Warren had 16 for Oklahoma.

Maryland 84, California 71, West Regional

Grievis Vasquez scored 27 points and Maryland used its press to keep Cal from getting in an offensive rhythm, shutting down the nation’s best 3-point shooting team.

Cal (22-11) led the country in 3-point shooting at 43 percent during the regular season, but the 10th-seeded Terps (21-13) hounded the Bears into one of their worst-shooting games of the season. Cal finishing 7-for-24 from beyond the arc _ its fourth-lowest percentage of the season.

Vasquez finished 10-for-21 from the floor and added five rebounds and four assists to help Maryland reach the second round in its ninth straight NCAA appearance. Dave Neal added 15 points and Eric Hayes had 14.

Theo Robertson led the Bears with 22 points and Jerome Randle had 14, but took just three shots in the second half. Patrick Christopher, one of Cal’s best perimeter shooters, finished 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

Michigan 62, Clemson 59, South Regional

Michigan showed no sign of nerves in its first NCAA tournament in over a decade, using its zone defense to stymie Clemson for most of the night.

The Wolverines (21-13), playing their first NCAA tournament game since a booster scandal rocked the program in the 1990s, handled Clemson’s press and held one of the nation’s top-scoring teams 20 points below its average.

Manny Harris had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Stu Douglass added 12 points for Michigan.

Clemson (23-9) had faced mostly man defense in the ACC and struggled against Michigan’s zone for most of the night, shooting 32 percent and hitting just 5-of-22 from 3-point range. The Tigers still managed to make it interesting, using a 14-0 run to get within one with just under a minute left. Clemson had one final shot to tie it, but K.C. Rivers’ contested 3-pointer from the corner fell well short.

Trevor Booker led Clemson with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Rivers added 13 points. Terrance Oglesby, one of Clemson’s best outside shooters, was ejected early in the second half for throwing an elbow at Douglass, finishing with three points on 1-of-8 shooting.

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