Arizona survives epic struggle
SALT LAKE CITY, March 23 (UPI) -- Gonzaga and Tulsa demonstrated Saturday why the NCAA Tournament has become such a major part of the American sports landscape.
Unfortunately for both schools, however, they played their final game of the season.
In a pair of memorable second-round contests, Wisconsin staged an amazing comeback to beat Tulsa, 61-60, and Arizona battled through regulation and two epic overtime periods to down Gonzaga, 96-95.
By avoiding the upsets, Wisconsin and Arizona joined Notre Dame, Connecticut, Marquette, Oklahoma, Kansas and Duke in the round of 16.
The other eight teams slated for the regional semifinals will be determined Sunday.
Arizona spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the country and Gonzaga looked every bit as good as the Wildcats all night.
But Salim Stoudamire scored Arizona's final five points and the Wildcats survived when Gonzaga's Tony Skinner and Blake Stepp both missed potential game-winners in the final moments of the second overtime.
Arizona (27-3) held a 96-95 lead thanks to Stoudamire when it lost the ball out of bounds with 22 seconds to go. The ball initially was awarded to the Wildcats, but official John Clougherty overruled in favor for the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga (24-9) patiently dribbled off some clock before Stepp drove and found a wide-open Tony Skinner on the right wing. Skinner, who scored 25 points, missed his three-point try with six seconds to go.
The ball bounced out to Stepp, who drove the left wing and freed himself with a pump fake for a short bank shot that missed with one second left. The rebound was batted around as time expired.
"I think that was one of the best games of all time," Arizona guard Jason Gardner said.
In Spokane, Freddie Owens, playing with a sore ankle, hit a three-pointer with one second remaining to complete a stunning comeback and give the Wisconsin Badgers a 61-60 victory over Tulsa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region.
The fifth-seeded Badgers came from 13 points down in the final 4:07.
Wisconsin (24-7) appeared to be out of it after Kevin Johnson hit a three-pointer to make it 58-45, but the Badgers ended the contest with a 16-2 run.
After Tulsa (23-10) was called for a shot-clock violation with 12 seconds remaining, Devin Harris brought the ball up for Wisconsin and dribbled into the right corner.
He kicked the ball to a wide-open Owens, who swished a three-pointer from the left wing to give the Big Ten regular-season champions the victory.
Two No. 4 seeds fell in the second round Wednesday when Connecticut ousted Stanford, 85-74, and Notre Dame bumped off Illinois, 68-60.
The other contests saw Marquette make every shot it took in overtime to beat Missouri, 101-92; Oklahoma hold off California, 74-65; Kansas crush Arizona State, 108-76; and Duke cruise past Central Michigan, 86-60.
The West Region semifinals have been set with Arizona facing Notre Dame and Duke taking on Kansas next Thursday in Anaheim.
Sunday's key contests will find Kentucky meeting Utah and Texas taking on Purdue. No team seeded first, second or third in any region has been beaten thus far.
Mavericks rally from big deficit
DALLAS, March 23 (UPI) -- The Dallas Mavericks rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit Saturday night to down the Phoenix Suns, 102-95.
Nowitzki and Steve Nash scored 27 points apiece for Dallas, which avoided consecutive home losses for what would have been the first time this season and won for the 10th time when facing a double-digit deficit.
The Mavericks trailed, 76-69, entering the fourth quarter, but took control by scoring the first 15 points of the period. Nowitzki and Walt Williams made consecutive three-pointers to give Dallas the lead for good at 79-76 with 10:30 to go.
Nash also handed out 13 assists for his 13th double-double of the season. He sparked the Mavericks with his dribble penetration in the third quarter, when he had 15 points and three assists. The All-Star point guard took over when Nowitzki went to the bench with his fifth foul with 4:57 left in the period.
Nowitzki, who was unstoppable in the fourth quarter with 15 points, hit another three-pointer to cap the 15-0 run and give the Mavericks an 84-76 lead with 8:33 left. He has at least 20 points in 15 of his last 16 contests.
Dallas increased its lead to 3 ½ games over San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. The Mavericks have 13 games remaining.
Other NBA results: Atlanta 92, Indiana 89; New Jersey 107, Memphis 99; Chicago 100, New York 98; Milwaukee 93, New Orleans 85; Utah 88, Los Angeles Clippers 72.
Montreal fans change tune on anthem
MONTREAL, March 23 (UPI) -- Donald Audette scored the game-winner with 7:08 left in the second period Saturday night to boost Montreal past Carolina, 4-3.
Montreal snapped a three-game losing streak and seven-game winless slide at home, pulling within six points of the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They remained two points behind the New York Rangers.
Responding to a taped address by Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, who implored fans to respect the anthems of both the U.S. and Canada, the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre enthusiastically cheered the "Star Spangled Banner."
Upset with the American-led military action in Iraq, Canadiens' fans booed the U.S. anthem before Thursday's game with the New York Islanders. Team president Pierre Boivin issued an apology on Friday.
In Toronto, fans stood and applauded after the Star Spangled Banner was played prior to what turned out to be the Maple Leafs' 3-2, overtime win over Buffalo.
Other NHL results: Colorado 8, Chicago 1; New York Rangers 2, Philadelphia 1; Detroit 4, St. Louis 2; New Jersey 4, New York Islanders 2; Atlanta 3, Columbus 2; Ottawa 3, Florida 1; Nashville 1, Calgary 1; Tampa Bay 4, Phoenix 0.
Woods storms into lead
ORLANDO, Fla., March 23 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods moved within sight of another significant milestone Saturday.
He opened a five-stroke lead after the third round at the Bay Hill Invitational, leaving the field in his wake with a seemingly effortless 6-under-par 66 in benign conditions at the Bay Hill course.
Barring an unexpected collapse Sunday, he will become just the third player, and the first since Gene Sarazen in 1930, to win the same PGA Tour event four times in a row.
Woods was at 15-under 201 with one round left.
Brad Faxon compiled an impressive 65 to move into second place at 206 with Stewart Cink a distant seven strokes back in third place.
The big disappointment was Ernie Els. The world No. 2 player was in the final group with Woods, but any hopes of a titantic showdown quickly went out the window as the South African struggled to a 72 and plunged 10 strokes off the pace.
In Phoenix, Annika Sorenstam opened a two-stroke lead over a star-studded leaderboard at the LPGA Safeway PING.
On the back nine, Sorenstam showed why she is the dominant player on the tour. At Nos. 11 and 15 -- both par-3s -- she flew irons off the tee right at the flagstick before sinking short birdie putts.
A failed birdie try at the closing hole left her at 18-under 198. Pak and Webb, the two golfers who have presented the biggest and most consistent challenge to Sorenstam over the last two years, could not keep pace. Pak carded a 68 and Webb a 69 as she bogeyed on the final hole.
Devil Rays release Vaughn
The 37-year-old Vaughn is slated to make $9.25 million this season, a figure that the Devil Rays almost assuredly will have to pay in its entirety. Tampa Bay will put Vaughn on waivers Monday and teams will have 72 hours to claim him. If he goes unclaimed, the Devil Rays will be responsible for his contract.
Piniella has vowed to not to let Tampa Bay, which is coming off a season in which it lost 106 times, get complacent. With talented young outfielders like Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli on the verge of making an impact, Piniella made a definitive statement with the release of Vaughn.
One of the premier sluggers in the 1990s, Vaughn hit just .163 with eight homers and 29 RBI in 2002. He was limited to 251 at bats by a right shoulder injury that did not require surgery but cost him the final three months of the season.
Freeman's long winning streak ends
SYDNEY, Australia, March 23 (UPI) -- Olympic champion Cathy Freeman on Saturday suffered her first 400-meter defeat in nearly five years.
She was beaten by 20-year-old Jana Pittman, who demonstrated the sort of kick for which her fellow Australian was once famed.
Pittman emerged as the country's strongest one-lapper during Freeman's two years away from the sport. She produced a powerful run to claim victory at the Telstra A-series event in Sydney.