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Bob Knight Defends Indiana Program

March 17, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ If defense wins games, Indiana should be a lock to make the Final Four.

Two days after Neil Reed, one of his former players, accused Bob Knight of choking him three years ago at a practice, the Indiana coach spent the nearly 20 minutes Thursday night defending his program and his record.

Talk about the sixth-seeded Hoosiers’ game tonight in the East Regional against No. 11 seed Pepperdine had to wait.

``We’ve never had NCAA violations for recruiting or academics or anything else,″ said Knight, who has led the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament 15 straight years. ``Our teams have been able to win more games in the ’70s, ‘80s and the ’90s than any team in our conference. I don’t expect everybody to agree with everything that I do or say. My mom doesn’t.

``I’ll bet that I’ve done since I’ve been in coaching about a 1,000 things to motivate kids or teams, and I’ll guarantee that a lot of them I wouldn’t want to talk about at a church social or a PTA meeting or a garden party,″ Knight said. ``But we’re not teaching kids to play canasta.″

Knight also spoke about several of his former players, such as Isiah Thomas and Kent Benson, who have excelled after college.

``If my kids left and weren’t successful, if they were on the bread line or selling drugs or in jail for one thing or another, then I would have a lot of questions about what my methods were leading to,″ Knight said. ``But when I have kids come back and talk about their experience here, what it’s meant to them and I see what they’re doing, then I’m just not sure what there is that I’m supposed to apologize for.″

Knight was not alone. Seniors A.J. Guyton and Michael Lewis spoke up for their embattled coach before addressing questions about the Waves, who received an at-large bid after going 24-8.

``Neil Reed was voted off the team by Mike and I, along with six other players,″ Guyton said. ``That alone says what we thought about Neil Reed.″

Guyton and Lewis said the negative remarks didn’t have an effect on the team.

``We’ve prepared for this game just like we have any other game,″ Lewis said. ``The controversy is with Coach. That’s why A.J. and I stepped up. The rest of the team didn’t have to worry about it. They haven’t said a word about it all week. They’ve been focusing on Pepperdine. We were prepared to handle both, and I think they were relieved.″

In other games today at Marine Midland Arena, second-seeded Temple (26-5) meets 15th-seeded Lafayette (24-6), No. 3 seed Oklahoma State (24-6) faces No. 14 Hofstra (24-6), and No. 7 Oregon (22-7) plays No. 10 Seton Hall (20-9).

His team was almost an afterthought Thursday night, and Pepperdine coach Jan van Breda Kolff was well aware of it.

``Where is everybody?″ he joked after Knight departed. ``Maybe a lot of people are thinking we’re happy we’re here. But we didn’t come to just be part of the 64 teams. Our team is focused. It’s a new experience for our guys, but I don’t think they’re going to be intimidated.″

The Waves won 13 of 20 road games and eight of their last 10 to close the season. The Hoosiers (20-8), ranked as high as No. 9 at one point, didn’t finish well. They lost to Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Big 10 tournament, one of four defeats in their final six games.

``We have something to prove,″ Lewis said. ``It’s just like in the beginning of the year when nobody had us picked in the top 25. And now you see all these experts picking Pepperdine to beat us in the first round. They want to prove that they belong in the tournament and we want to prove everybody wrong.″

Craig ``Speedy″ Claxton and his Hofstra teammates hope to get it done against the Cowboys. Oklahoma coach Eddie Sutton, the only coach to lead four schools into the tournament, has not lost a first-round game in seven trips with Oklahoma State.

``We’ve played the best,″ Hofstra guard Jason Hernandez said. ``It doesn’t matter who we play or where we play.″

The Flying Dutchmen easily won the America East championship and beat opponents by an average of 14.3 points. Sutton was most worried about Claxton, who averaged nearly 23 points.

``I think we got the toughest 14th seed in the tournament,″ Sutton said. ``They’ve got the best guard we will have faced this season. They’re certainly capable of beating us and a lot of other teams in the field.″

For Temple (26-5), regular-season and tournament champion of the Atlantic 10, the challenge in playing Pennsylvania neighbor and Patriot League champion Lafayette is simply taking the court for the first time.

``The toughest game is the first,″ said the 68-year-old Chaney, who has guided Temple to four regional finals in the last 12 years, but never the Final Four in his long career. ``Regardless of what team you play, your biggest problem is yourself. We have enough weaknesses on our own that we have to work on improving.″

The game is almost a little too personal for Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon, who used to play pickup games against Chaney in Philadelphia.

``It’s hard to build up a healthy hate for people that you know,″ said O’Hanlon, who led the Leopards to the tournament last year, ending a 42-year absence. ``People were talking about him being the sentimental favorite to go to the Final Four, and I was one of those guys. Now, I don’t feel that way.″

In the Oregon-Seton Hall matchup, at some point the players might end up wondering what team they’re on.

``We do so many similar things defensively and we try to score in so many similar ways in giving guys a lot of freedom offensively,″ Oregon coach Ernie Kent said.

Senior guard Alex Scales, the Ducks’ top scorer at 16.3 points per game, is in the midst of them academically _ he had a final exam Thursday in sociology and was scheduled to take another _ perhaps after the game today.

Kent likes the idea.

``That mental prep that goes into those finals is the exact same mental prep we need,″ said Kent, who got accustomed to the scenario when he was an assistant at Stanford.


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