Originally created 03/20/00

Tulsa eliminates Cincinatti



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, there was nothing Kenyon Martin could do.

The Cincinnati All-American sat at the end of the bench, crutches beside him on the floor. His leg was broken, and so was the Bearcats' season.

"It's hard when you can't help," he said Sunday after second-seeded Cincinnati lost 69-61 to Tulsa in the second round of the South Regional. "It is a helpless feeling. It's tough in this room right now. It's something that can't be explained."

There was nothing the injured center could do stop Eric Coley and seventh-seeded Tulsa from moving on to the round of 16. As for Cincinnati, it was another second-round meltdown.

Coley had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Tulsa (31-4) went on a 14-0 tear over four minutes late in the second half to wipe out a five-point deficit.

Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins knows better than anyone how much of a difference Martin would have made.

"If Ken's playing, he's guarding Coley and he gets 16 and 16," he said. "It's certainly not an alibi or an excuse. We've still got good enough players to win. Tulsa did a good job."

Still, Huggins could not forget Martin, who broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament.

"It's tough seeing him sitting there with a cast on," the coach said. "It's tough for the rest of our seniors. I'm going to coach some more, probably. This is it for those four guys. It's tough."

Two of Cincinnati's seniors tried to make up for Martin. Pete Mickeal, who fouled out, had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Ryan Fletcher, starting in Martin's place, had 13 points, including five straight that put Cincinnati (29-4) in front 50-45 after the Bearcats wiped out an early 16-point Tulsa lead.

But the Golden Hurricane showed great resolve, going on a tear that was touched off by Dante Swanson's 3-pointer.

In four minutes they reconstructed their lead to nine points and Cincinnati never recovered.

"Wow, did we play down the stretch," coach Bill Self said. "They're a terrific team even without Kenyon. There should not be an asterisk beside this."

Coley dominated the boards, setting a career high with 16.

"It seemed like I was in the right place at the right time," he said. "I was just attacking the boards, trying to get my hands on every ball."

"Eric's been doing that all year long," teammate Brandon Kurtz said. "It's just that it's on a national stage now."

Greg Harrington, who was saddled with three early fouls and sat most of the first half, returned to the game and energized Tulsa's run beating Cincinnati's half-court trap on possession after possession and converting some easy shots.

"They started solving it and we got tired," Huggins said. "We had guys not used to playing that amount of minutes."

It was the fourth straight year that Cincinnati has failed to advance past the first round of the tournament. This time, though, it was with Martin seated at the end of the bench.

He was teary-eyed as Tulsa charged to an early lead.

The Golden Hurricane ran off 13 straight points and built a 19-7 lead. That widened to 28-14 as the Bearcats seemed lost under Tulsa's barrage. The Hurricane held a 27-19 rebounding edge at halftime but Cincinnati had sliced the lead to 31-24.

Swanson and David Shelton had 14 each for Tulsa, and Tony Heard added 10.

"After this game, people should know who we are," Swanson said. "They might think of it as a fluke. We have to show it was not."