College Round-up: Cast of locals earn trip to March Madness

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No fear.

That’s the way University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun describes former St. John’s Prep star Taliek Brown.

In front of a screaming sell-out crowd and with his team clinging to a 66-64 lead with 34.8 seconds left in the second overtime against Pittsburgh in the Big East championship game Saturday, the 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard launched a 32-foot shot as the shot clock expired.

No problem.

Brown’s heave swished through the hoop, giving the Huskies a commanding 69-64 lead en route to UConn’s fifth Big East tournament title at Madison Square Garden.

“I knew the shot was going in,” joked Brown, who had 13 points, five assists and four rebounds in 46 minutes against seventh-ranked Pittsburgh. “I just squared up, stood in. I think God just helped me out with that shot.”

Thanks in part to Brown’s heroics, UConn (24-6) garnered the No. 2 seed in the East Region when the 65-team NCAA tournament field was announced Sunday. The Huskies will play 15th-seeded Hampton (26-6) in a first-round game Friday afternoon at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.

The LeFrak City resident is just one of several players from Queens participating in the NCAA tournament, which started Tuesday with the play-in game between Alcorn State and Siena.

On the other end of the Big East championship classic Saturday was former Christ the King standout Mark McCarroll. But the pain the 6-foot-10 red-shirt freshman from Jamaica and his teammates felt lasted less than 24 hours, as Pittsburgh (27-5) earned the No. 3 seed in the South Regional.

McCarroll, who averages 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game, will get to reunite with Christ the King alum Rob Barrett in the first round, as Pittsburgh takes on 14th-seeded Central Connecticut State (27-4) Friday at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh at 12:25 p.m.

Barrett, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward, averages two points and 1.7 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils.

McCarroll and Barrett aren’t the only former Christ the King players in the Big Dance.

Fresh off winning the Big-10 crown Sunday, Zach Williams and his Ohio State teammates soon learned they were heading to Albuquerque, N.M. to play 13th-seeded Davidson (21-9) Friday at 3:10 p.m.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, who started all but one of the Buckeyes’ 39 games, averages 9.9 points per game and a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game for fourth-seeded Ohio State (23-7).

A year after pushing Kentucky to the brink in a 72-68 loss in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament, Queensbridge native Jave Meade, also out of Christ the King, and the Holy Cross Crusaders will face top-seeded Kansas in the first round of the Midwest Regional Thursday at 7:40 p.m. in St. Louis, Mo.

The 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard, who has started all 32 games and averages 6.8 points a game and leads Holy Cross (18-14) in assists and steals, had nine points and three assists in a 58-54 win over American University in the Patriot League championship game Friday.

Former Cardozo standout Royal Ivey and Archbishop Molloy alum Uka Agbai will meet in a first round Midwest Regional game at American Airlines Center Friday at 10:30 p.m. as No. 6 Texas (20-11) faces 11th-seeded Boston College (20-11).

Ivey, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard from Hollis, averages 11.2 points per game and is shooting 48.3 percent from the field and has started all 31 games for the Longhorns.

Agbai, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from Queens Village, has also been a mainstay in the Boston College lineup — starting all 31 games — and averages 11.9 points and six rebounds per game for the Eagles.

Kevin Fitzgerald and Rashad Bell — former teammates at St. Francis Prep — will also get to enjoy March Madness, as they will join the rest of their Boston University teammates and head coach Dennis Wolff, from Bayside, as the Terriers (22-9) will take on No. 1-seeded Cincinnati (30-3) in a first round West Regional game in Pittsburgh Friday at 7:40 p.m.

The last of the locals in the men’s tournament is former Jamaica star Cheyne Gadson, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, who averages 6,7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists for seventh-seeded Oklahoma State (23-8), which will play No. 10 Kent State (27-5) in a first round South Regional game Thursday at 12:20 p.m. in Greensville, S.C.

Christ the King is also well represented in the women’s NCAA tournament, as two of the three locals in the Dance went to the Middle Village school.

Leading the charge is Sue Bird, the senior point guard from Syosset who averages 13.7 points and has a team-high 195 assists and 83 steals for top-seeded Connecticut (33-0), which hosts St. Francis (Pa.) in a first-round game Saturday at approximately 1 p.m.

Clare Droesch, a 5-foot-11 freshman from Belle Harbor who averaged 10.2 points per game, will get her first taste of NCAA tournament basketball as she and her Boston College teammates, seeded fifth in the Midwest Region, face No. 12 Mississippi State in Waco, Tex.

Former August Martin standout Tanesha Seaton, a 6-foot-2 junior center, and No. 11 St. Peter’s (25-5) will face sixth-seeded Cincinnati Saturday at the University of South Carolina.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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