March 11, 2005

West Virginia 78, No. 19 Villanova 76

Mike Gansey had the moment of his life and West Virginia has a chance at Big East history. The junior forward made two free throws with .2 seconds to play to give the Mountaineers a 78-76 victory over No. 19 Villanova on Friday night.

N. Carolina St. Upsets No. 3 Wake Forest

North Carolina State got the best revenge possible — a surprising victory over Wake Forest. Julius Hodge led a balanced attack with 22 points and Ilian Evtimov added 18 points and seven assists, helping the Wolfpack upset the third-ranked Demon Deacons.

Iowa Slips Past No. 13 Michigan St. 71-69

The Iowa Hawkeyes came into the Big Ten tournament knowing they had to win four games in four days to make the NCAAs. They're halfway there. Refusing to back down even with the entire team in serious foul trouble, Iowa hung on for a 71-69 victory against Michigan State.

North Carolina Holds Off Upset-Minded Clemson

Raymond Felton buried a clutch three-pointer down the stretch and finished with a career-high 29 points, as second-ranked North Carolina survived a scare from Clemson and escaped with an 88-81 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.

Big East says Auriemma's conduct was not inappropriate

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was cleared of any wrongdoing in events that led Rutgers guard Cappie Pondexter to confront him after the conference title game, the Big East Conference said Thursday.

Big East Commissioner Michael Tranghese issued a statement saying that Auriemma did not act inappropriately during or after UConn's 67-51 win Tuesday night.

Pondexter confronted Auriemma after the game, but neither commented on what was said.

Tranghese said he came to his decision after a ``very thorough and comprehensive investigation in which over a dozen individuals and involved parties were interviewed.''

``In the heat of competition -- particularly during the postseason when so much is at stake -- there are inevitably going to be situations in which misunderstandings occur,'' Tranghese said. ``It is truly unfortunate that these situations sometime detract and overshadow the game itself.''

Tranghese said he spoke with Auriemma and Pondexter earlier Thursday, and refused to discuss the exchange.

``I never disclose whatever I talk about,'' Tranghese said. ``We have nothing to gain by hanging out dirty laundry.

``If you're going to be angry, be angry with me. I made it clear to the two athletic directors that I took charge of the investigation and I alone was going to render the decision. Because it's my job.''

UConn athletic director Jeffrey Hathaway was satisfied with the decision.

``My concern was for the program and for Geno,'' he said. ``I have to get the team back focused on the NCAAs.''

Auriemma was not immediately available for comment. Messages left for a Rutgers spokesman was not immediately returned Thursday night.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer had complained that Auriemma made inappropriate comments to one of her players.

Auriemma has contended that his comments were made to an official regarding what he said was trash-talking by a Rutgers' player in the closing minutes the game.

But, apparently, both Pondexter and Stringer believed Auriemma was yelling at the star guard.

``Any human being would not tolerate comments like that made to anybody,'' Stringer said in her postgame news conference. ``Comments like that should not be loose for just anyone to hear. Coaches say things to our players all the time, but we should never address another player.''

Auriemma deflected Stringer's criticism after the game.

``I don't feel like I need to defend myself,'' Auriemma said after the game. ``(Stringer) has no idea what I said. Zero idea what I said. The incident that's in question was never about Cappie.''

Auriemma coached Pondexter for two summers on the U.S. Junior team and said he has the utmost respect for her. Pondexter said the respect was mutual, adding that she and the UConn coach have a good relationship.

``We'll work things out,'' she said after the game.

The 50-year-old Auriemma is in his 20th year at UConn and has built the Huskies into a national power with five NCAA titles, including the last three. He also has coached two undefeated teams of 1995 (35-0) and 2002 (39-0), producing a parade of All-Americans such as Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi.

But his tenure has not been without controversy. In a 1998 game against Villanova, coached by his friend Harry Perretta, he arranged for All-American Nykesha Sales to score an uncontested layup while on crutches due to an Achilles' tendon injury, in order to break the school scoring record. That bucket set off a firestorm of criticism, sparking national debate on the integrity of women's basketball.

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