College Basketball: Catawba 74, Armstrong Atlantic 67

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 14, 2009

By Jimmy Lewis
AUGUSTA, Ga. ó The sixth-seeded Catawba Indians pulled off the first upset of the NCAA Southeast Regional men’s basketball tournament with a 74-67 win over the third-seeded Armstrong Atlantic State Pirates on Saturday afternoon at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
The Indians (22-9) placed four players in double figures and advance to the regional semifinals today against second-seed USC Aiken.
Both teams made an identical 24 field goals and six 3-pointers, but Catawba won the game at the free throw line, hitting 20 of 28 while Armstrong Atlantic State struggled, hitting only 13 of 23. The Indians also made just eight turnovers to help offset a 47-38 edge by AASU on the boards.
Antonio Houston led the Indians with 21 points, including three 3-pointers. Rob Fields came off the bench to add 17. He was a perfect 12-for-12 at the free throw line.
Also reaching double digits were Dominick Reid with 13, and Cliff Burns, who had 10 points and five blocked shots.
Donald Rutherford finished with eight points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds.
Both teams began the game strong and the score was tied at nine when back-to-back 3-pointers from Houston and Reid sparked a 10-0 Catawba run. Armstrong Atlantic fought back with an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead to two.
Catawba increased the lead to 10 in the waning moments of the first half as Fields drained a 3-pointer with 2:01 to play, but the Pirates crawled within 35-30 at the break.
Armstrong Atlantic took their first lead 45-43 and led again 52-49 with 10:27 remaining. Catawba then went on a decisive 13-3 run over the next four minutes, seven by Fields, to open up a seven-point lead.
A Dwight Tolbert free throw with 2:06 to play cut the Indian lead to four, but Fields answered with a pair of free throws with 1:18 to play that gave Catawba a six-point lead. Catawba made 5 of 6 free-throw attempts in the final minute while AASU missed four consecutive three-pointers on the same possession with fewer than 40 seconds to play.

NOTES: The win is the first in the NCAA tournament for Catawba since 1998. The Indians also ended a streak of two consecutive first-round overtime losses. … Armstrong Atlantic, ranked 25th in NCAA II, ends its season at 23-7. … T.T. Hall led Armstrong Atlantic State with 18 points and eight rebounds, although the senior hit only two of 13 three-point attempts. … Catawba’s game today will begin at 5 p.m.