Yes, it's true. Teams that can't play defense and rebound don't last too long in the NCAA tournament.
Georgia Tech (26-7) and Illinois (26-8) played tenacious defense today in winning second-round games, and will meet in a East Regional semifinal game in Providence Thursday.
Getting one of those rare, complete team efforts, Tech outran cold-shooting Syracuse in the second half and captured a 70-53 decision before 16,723 at the Omni.
The Illini played their Big Ten style of physical defense and ran a motion offense to near-perfection as they built a 15-point halftime lead in eliminating Georgia, 74-58, in the first game of the doubleheader.
Just as it did in its 76-57 first-round victory over Northeastern, Illinois got the ball inside to Efrem Winters (19 points, five rebounds) and Ken Norman (15 points, nine rebounds) for short jumpers, layups or alley-oop dunks. When the Illini opted to shoot from outside, Doug Altenberger (16 points) was there to make shots from 16 to 18 feet.
"Everyone took turns contributing," Altenberger said. "I got some good picks outside and hit some shots, Bruce (Douglas) did a great job running the offense and Efrem played well inside. The whole team really shot the ball well. I don't think Georgia thought we could get up and down the court like we did."
Despite the Bulldogs' reputation as a sound defensive team, they were virtually helpless against the Illini. With Altenberger shooting well, Illinois got the upper hand early.
But despite the Illini's sharp shooting and zero points from Georgia's leading scorer and rebounder, Cedric Henderson, the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 16-15 at the 11:43 mark after a goaltending call gave Chad Kessler a basket.
The game then took a strange turn. Illinois guard Tony Wysinger was called for his second offensive foul within seconds, and Coach Lou Henson was called for a technical foul. But Georgia's Horace McMillan missed both free throws. The Bulldogs' ensuing possession resulted in another turnover, and Illinois took over.
Altenberger and Anthony Welch sank outside shots to begin a 12-0 run that sent the Illini ahead, 28-15, with 5:35 to play.
Georgia couldn't do anything right, losing the ball five times and missing five shots. And Henderson went to the bench with his third foul.
"We didn't shoot well from the perimeter, and when you don't have accurate shooting from out there, you can't spread the zone," said Georgia Coach Hugh Durham.
Georgia went nine minutes without scoring, and the damage was irreversible. A bank shot by Altenberger, who made a nice inside move between two defenders, and a short jumper from Norman gave the Illini a 34-19 lead at intermission.
The Bulldogs (22-9) settled down a bit in the second half and, helped by two baskets from Joe Ward (17 points) and a three-point play from David Dunn, crept to 47-37 with 13:50 to play.
Georgia's press forced another mistake but Henderson (13 points, five rebounds), the front man on a three-on-one break, threw the ball out of bounds. Illinois quickly countered with two free throws by Winters, putting the Bulldogs 12 points back with less than 12 minutes remaining.
In the second game, Georgia Tech's rebounding strength and accurate shooting in the second half proved the difference. John Salley (13 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots), Yvon Joseph (17 points, five rebounds) and Bruce Dalrymple (10 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) limited the Orangemen to one shot per possession much of the second half, long enough to take control.
Leading, 28-27, at the half, Georgia Tech went on a 9-2 run. Salley began it with a short hook shot. Dalrymple had three free throws; Scott Petway, who defended Rafael Addison (17 points) well and had seven rebounds and eight points, sank a 15-footer after intercepting Pearl Washington's pass, and Salley finished the surge with a dunk.
The spurt forced Syracuse (22-9) to abandon its 2-3 zone for a man-to-man defense, something Coach Jim Boeheim did not want.
"Our man-to-man has not been very good this year," Boeheim said. "We knew we had to play well early so we could stay in our zone. But Tech's defense pushed us outside and we didn't hit our perimeter shots."
While Washington (seven points, 11 assists) was being run ragged by point guard Mark Price (18 points), Syracuse clearly struggled. Joseph's three-point play, Dalrymple's two fast-break baskets and free throws by Price and Joseph over a four-minute span enabled Georgia Tech to increase its lead to 56-44 with 4:47 left.
Tech made 12 free throws in the final three minutes to assure victory.
"All along, we've been working on our front line and Joseph is a powerful player," Coach Bobby Cremins said. "We wanted to establish some sort of inside game.
Cremins also was happy over the return of freshman forward Duane Ferrell, out recently because of strained knee ligaments. He played seven minutes.