No fairy-tale finish by Cinderella VCU

Associated Press • Mar 18, 2007 at 8:09 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Levance Fields wasn't about to let two missed free throws ruin Pittsburgh's season.

Fields atoned for his misses at the end of regulation, hitting a 3-pointer in overtime, and Pitt recovered after blowing a 19-point lead to beat upstart Virginia Commonwealth 84-79 Saturday in the second round of the West Regional.

"After the two free throws, my teammates and coaches came to me and told me to put it behind me," said Fields, who could have given Pitt a lead with 2.1 seconds left. "We had five more minutes to get the job done, and everybody believed in me, so my confidence was still up.

"I didn't want to let my team down, so when I took that shot I was very confident," said Fields, who hit the clutch shot while falling away from the basket to give Pitt a 75-71 lead with 3:09 left. "When it went through the basket, it was a feeling of relief."

Ronald Ramon scored five points in the extra session for third-seeded Pitt (29-7), which has never won more than two games in an NCAA tournament.

The Panthers will make their fourth appearance in school history in the round of 16, but getting there wasn't easy despite Pitt's dominating first half, which produced a 15-point lead at the break.

Eric Maynor, who hit the game-winning shot to beat Duke in the first round, led a comeback from a 51-32 deficit over the final 12 minutes of regulation.

Jesse Pellot-Rosa had 20 points, all after halftime, and B.A. Walker also had 20 for the 11th-seeded Rams (28-7). Maynor finished with 14 points, eight assists and three steals.

Sam Young finished with 15 points to lead Pitt and Aaron Gray had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists despite suffering food poisoning overnight and getting only an hour of sleep. Mike Cook and Young each made a pair of free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the triumph.

Pitt dominated the first half behind Gray, and even he picked up his third foul early in the second half and had to sit for five minutes, the Rams were unable to mount a charge. When Gray fed Keith Benjamin for an easy basket with 12:11 left, Pitt was up 51-32.

Then Pellot-Rosa found his range and the Rams began to surge behind their stifling press, which helped force 11 second-half turnovers that led to 19 points.

With chants of "VCU! VCU!" reverberating through the Rams' cheering section, they staged a furious rally as Maynor waved his arms in earnest, urging the fans to keep up the noise.

"You're going to go through adversity in a basketball game," Maynor said. "Going into halftime, we were down 15 and the first thing he (coach Anthony Grant) came in and said was, ‘We've got another half, another 20 minutes.' The only way we was going to stop fighting was if the time ran out. This team, we've just got a lot of heart, a will to win. We just fell short."

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Indiana's game plan hearkened back to the days of Four Corners offenses and set shots, and it nearly worked - until UCLA punched a hole in its peach basket and squeaked into the next round.

Darren Collison scored 15 points, hit two late free throws and made the game-deciding steal as UCLA survived both the Hoosiers' stifling defense and their frantic tying rally for a second-round victory in the West Regional.

Arron Afflalo managed just 10 points for second-seeded UCLA (28-5), which led 20-13 after a first half dominated by defensive hustle - and downright offensive ineptitude by both teams. Indiana tied it at 49 with a minute left after a 16-3 rally, but Afflalo and Collison finished it off with free throws.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game to play against a Big Ten team like that, but we showed we can play a lot of different ways," Afflalo said. "We're a versatile team, and we're just grateful to be moving on."

The Bruins are headed to the round of 16 for the fifth time in eight years - and the second straight campaign under coach Ben Howland, whose team lost the national championship game to Florida last season.

Awaiting Howland in the next round is a matchup with his old team, the Pitt Panthers.

D.J. White and Earl Calloway scored 12 points apiece for Indiana (21-11), which finished its encouraging first season under coach Kelvin Sampson with a tournament game that should have a place in the school's rich history - even if it won't win any beauty contests.

UCLA won without making a field goal in the final 5:25, but Indiana couldn't score at all in the final minute.

The first half was excruciating, with both teams running down the shot clock before missing difficult attempts. But defense couldn't take all the credit - both teams seemed much more comfortable defending the ball than trying to put it in the hoop.

Indiana went 5-for-28 in the first half, while UCLA was 7-for-26.

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