Wagner picks up tournament MVP

Memphis corrals NIT title

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2002

NEW YORK -- As Dajuan Wagner came out of what could be his last game in college, he clasped hands and bumped chests with his teammates. Fans cheered and chanted ''One more year!''

After the game, it became a question: One more year?

Wagner, Memphis' star freshman and a possible lottery pick in the NBA draft, answered that question the way he has all week.

''I don't worry about that,'' Wagner said.

Wagner said he was still enjoying the Tigers' NIT title, which they earned with a a 72-62 victory over South Carolina on Thursday night.

Earl Barron scored a career-high 25 points, and Wagner had 16 and was selected the tournament MVP.

Temple beat Syracuse 65-54 in the third-place game.

Tigers coach John Calipari thinks Wagner could be one of the first 13 players taken if he leaves this year and one of the first two players taken if he leaves next year.

''Oh yeah, he'll be a lottery pick,'' Calipari said. ''If he decides to leave, I'm going to be happy for him. But if he does decide to come back, I'm going to be happy for us at Memphis ... We're going to try and win that other championship.''

When Calipari took Wagner out of the game with 47.3 seconds left, the blue-and-white-clad contingent of fans behind the Memphis bench stood and chanted ''One more year! One more year!'' then did it again when the 19-year-old star finished an interview at courtside.

For Calipari, the championship accomplished something he wanted to get out of the way at this time last season. The Tigers lost in the NIT semifinals last year, and Calipari was hoping they would make the NCAA tournament this year. But the Tigers lost five of their last seven, including a first-round loss to Houston in the Conference USA tournament.

Calipari said earlier this week he felt snubbed by the NCAA tournament. Before Tuesday's semifinals, he said advancing would be ''validation.''

''They had a coach that vented all week,'' Calipari said. ''And next week, I'm really going to vent.''

First-year South Carolina coach Dave Odom was bidding for his second NIT title in three years. He won with Wake Forest in 2000.

Rolando Howell had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Gamecocks, who shot just 8-of-18 from the free-throw line.

The Gamecocks (22-15) stayed close in the first half, but didn't score in the second until Aaron Lucas sank a free throw with 15:50 to play.

Lucas scored South Carolina's first field goal of the half with 13:25 left. But by then, Memphis (27-9) was running away with it.

''I think pure and simple, we lost to a better basketball team tonight,'' Odom said. ''I'm proud of them at the way we played tonight.''

Temple 65, Syracuse 54

NEW YORK -- David Hawkins scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lead Temple to a 65-54 victory over Syracuse in the third-place game of the NIT on Thursday night.

With Syracuse a 3-pointer away from tying the game, Hawkins scored 11 of his Temple's next 13 points to push the Owls' lead to 54-44. The Owls were 20-of-23 from the free-throw line, while Syracuse was 8-of-21 (35.5 percent).

Temple (19-15) was up 41-30 early in the second half, after a 15-0 run. DeShaun Williams ended the drought with 11:15 to play, and Shumpert followed quickly with a 3-pointer that made it 41-35.

Another 3-pointer by Williams brought Syracuse within three points, 41-38, but the Orangemen couldn't close the gap.

Senior Preston Shumpert led the Orangemen with 21 points. Williams had 14 and Hakim Warrick had 12. Only two other Syracuse players -- Kueth Duany (six) and Craig Forth (one) -- scored.

Temple took advantage of an unsightly start by the Orangemen to take a 13-5 lead. But the Owls couldn't make it hold up, and Hakim Warrick's turnaround jumper at the first-half buzzer gave Syracuse a 23-21 halftime lead.

The teams combined for 14 turnovers in the first half.

Syracuse (23-13) led briefly before that, too, after Shumpert scored the second of two consecutive layups 28 seconds apart to give the Orangemen a 16-15 lead with 7:32 left.

Temple's Greg Jefferson answered with a pair of dunks, but the Owls couldn't maintain any momentum, and didn't score in the half's final 2:40.

The Orangemen failed to score in the game's first 4 1/2 minutes. At one point, the Orangemen missed layups on consecutive possessions and coach Jim Boeheim called a 30-second timeout 3:26 into the game. ESPN had gone to its first commercial break by the time Duany's 10-footer finally settled in the bottom of the net to break the drought and make it 6-2 Temple with 15:33 left.



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