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CINCINNATI'S BIG PLAYS DOOM UTEP

Cincinnati made big plays early and late to beat Texas-El Paso 69-67 Friday night and move within a game of its first Final Four in two decades.

The Bearcats (28-4) outscored UTEP 10-0 in the first few minutes, then got two crucial free throws from Erik Martin with 20.2 seconds left to seal the victory and advance to the Midwest Regional final.No. 12 Cincinnati will meet Memphis State on Sunday in an all-Great Midwest Conference title game. The Bearcats have already beaten Memphis State three times, and another victory would send them to the Final Four for the first time since 1963.

The loss ended a great tournament for the Miners (27-7), who hadn't gotten past the second round since 1966.

UTEP, seeded No. 9, had advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by knocking off top-seeded Kansas 66-60 last weekend. Coach Don Haskins used the delay game to frustrate the Jayhawks, but Cincinnati had the answers this time.

Fourth-seeded Cincinnati stretched a seven-point halftime lead to 55-41 five minutes into the second half. But UTEP used its defense to twice get within three points and finally within two, 67-65, on a shot by Johnny Melvin with 54 seconds left.

Martin was fouled on the Bearcats' next possession, and the 55-percent free throw shooter promptly swished both shots. He wound up with 10 points.

Marlon Maxey made two free throws for UTEP with nine seconds left, but then Cincinnati was able to dribble out the rest of clock.

Herb Jones scored 24 points for the Bearcats, who shot 48 percent against a team that had been allowing opponents to shoot just 41 percent. David Van Dyke had 18 for the Miners.

Cincinnati rattled the Miners in the first three minutes, using pressure and halfcourt traps to force three turnovers while taking the 10-0 lead.

The Bearcats, who hit eight of their first 13 shots, widened the lead to 19-6 on a 3-pointer by Anthony Buford with 13:58 left in the half. Then the Miners began to close the gap after switching to a zone and getting better shots at the other end.

The Miners went on a 14-4 run, capped by a Prince Stewart 3-pointer, to come within 23-20 with 9:12 left. Cincinnati only got three shots during the surge and turned the ball over three times.

After the Miners fell behind by 14 in the second half, Van Dyke scored eight points to lead an 18-7 run. Cincinnati hit just two of nine shots during the 81/2-minute stretch.

Memphis State 83, Ga. Tech 79

Score one for shorty in the latest battle between good big men and good little men.

Guard Tony Madlock sank six free throws and grabbed a key rebound in the final 98 seconds, boosting Memphis State to a come-from-behind overtime victory over a taller Georgia Tech.

The 6-foot-1 Madlock sank two free throws with 1:38 left in overtime, putting Memphis State on top 78-77 for the Tigers' first lead since 36-34. He then made two more free throws with 32 seconds remaining after rebounding a Georgia Tech shot, and then made it 82-77 with 16 seconds to go on two more foul shots.

Jon Barry, with his Hall of Fame father Rick Barry looking on, had 29 points for the Yellow Jackets (23-12), but only one in the final 9:44, including the overtime.

The Yellow Jackets, who eliminated USC on James Forrest's buzzer-beater in the second round, tried unsuccessfully to get the ball to Forrest for a final shot and were forced into overtime.

Despite a decided height advantage along the front line, the Yellow Jackets outrebounded Memphis State only 41-35. But Georgia Tech also had 21 turnovers to just 12 for Memphis State.

Anfernee Hardaway, who made one of seven shots in the first half and scored but four points, ended up with 24 points and seven assists. Anthony Douglas had 16 points and Billy Smith had 15.

The shorter Tigers, who gave up a significant height advantage inside, were the ones who controlled the boards in the early going. Harried by Memphis State's swarming defense, the Yellow Jackets missed seven of their first 10 shots and quickly fell behind.