March 23, 2000
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - The Midwest regional semifinal matchup between Iowa State and UCLA tonight brings back memories for both teams.
They met at the same stage of the 1997 tournament, when the Bruins beat the Cyclones 74-73 in overtime.
But only one player that played in that game is around for this one - Iowa State's Stevie Johnson.
"I don't remember much about the UCLA game," said Johnson, who played briefly as a freshman. "I just remember (Kelvin) Cato going up to block their last shot and seeing it float just over his hand and go in."
That time, Iowa State and UCLA played their first-round games at The Palace before facing each other in San Antonio. This year, they started in Minneapolis before heading to Michigan.
"I don't think it will be much of an advantage for us, especially since UCLA was winning games here at the same time that we were," Johnson said Wednesday. "But beating Cincinnati was a great win for us, and it will be nice to play here again after that."
EARLY SHOWERS: Iowa State was the only team that didn't use its entire 50-minute practice session Wednesday. While the other teams went right to the final buzzer, the Cyclones finished about 10 minutes early.
REPEAT PERFORMERS: Michigan State's Jason Richardson and UCLA's Jason Kopono are making their second appearance at The Palace in just under 12 months.
Both players starred in Magic Johnson's annual Roundball Classic last April, with Richardson putting on a spectacular show in the postgame dunk contest.
"It gives me a little advantage, because I'm used to the rims here and the court," said Richardson, a freshman. "But I've still got to go out there and play the game."
CROWD FAVORITES: As expected, a majority of the 3,500 fans in attendance for Wednesday's open practices were dressed in Michigan State's green-and-white.
The biggest cheers of the afternoon came at the end of the Spartans session, when Morris Peterson and Richardson engaged in a dunking duel. Peterson had the early advantage, but Richardson received a standing ovation for his next-to-last dunk - a between-the-legs tomahawk off a bounce pass to himself.
"I'm just going out there to try to have fun and bring some excitement to the team," Richardson said. "It's really exciting to be in an atmosphere like this. Not everyone has a chance to do that."
"Stay focused," Lavin said.
Watson had the surgery to correct a problem after he took an elbow to his left eye during the Bruins' 105-70 rout of Maryland in their second-round game last week.
Watson played a career game with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting (5-for-6 from 3-point range) with a school-record 16 assists and no turnovers.