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Vaughn, Nash Meet in Battle of Top Guards

March 16, 1996

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Two of the slickest and smartest point guards in the country, Kansas’ Jacque Vaughn and Santa Clara’s Steve Nash, clash Sunday and could negate each other in the NCAA West Regionals second-round game.

Vaughn has an edge in speed, Nash in height, and they’re equal in the influence they exert on their teams, controlling the ball and the pace on offense with brilliant passing.

Yet, for all their talent and leadership, the Kansas-Santa Clara game is likely to hinge on which team’s big men rule inside. And that’s where Kansas, seeded No. 2 in the West, may have an advantage in size and depth over the 10th-seeded Broncos.

Arizona and Iowa meet in the second game Sunday, a duel that will pit the Wildcats’ speed in a run-and-gun offense against the Hawkeyes muscle in a more deliberate halfcourt game.

``People can sort of glorify the matchup (with Vaughn) or make it as romantic as they want,″ Nash said, ``but it’s not really that big a deal because he is not a constant attacking player. He’s not the kind of guy looking to score and looking to break you down time after time. He’s more concerned with the team and the flow of the game. That’s his strong suit.″

Nash knows he’ll be tested against a player whom he says can do everything: score, pass, penetrate, run the break, play defense.

``But the biggest thing is the way he runs their team,″ Nash said, ``and that’s something that you really can’t stop because it’s an intangible. I’ve got to try and limit everything he does.″

Santa Clara center Brendan Graves knows that if Nash and Vaughn cancel each other out, the burden falls on who wins the battle of big men.

``They’re a very strong all-around team,″ Graves said. ``A key will be their inside game. They’ve got a very strong inside presence, and hopefully we’ll be able to limit that. When we played them last year, I think they won the battle inside. It’s going to be a real battle for us.″

They battled quite a bit last season before Kansas barely won, 80-75, on its own court after being favored by 20.

Nash scored 20 points in that game, but wasn’t happy with his performance or the unranked Broncos’ missed chances.

``I didn’t have a great shooting game,″ Nash said. ``What I remember is that we really had a great opportunity to get a major win and a major upset, and I think that opportunity slipped by us.″

That game turned on Kansas strength and depth inside, and the Jayhawks are hoping Sunday’s game will do the same.

``Both teams are big and strong,″ Kansas forward B.J. Williams said, ``but we may be able to run up and down the court a little bit more.″

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