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Big Dance win still missing from Purnell's resume

The frustration continued Friday for Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. He has 394 career wins in a 23-year career that also features stops at Radford, Old Dominion and Dayton. But none has come in the NCAA Tournament.

Purnell dropped to 0-6 in first-round games with the Tigers' 86-78 loss to Missouri -- and his teams have been first-round losers three straight years. After this defeat, Purnell was asked if his Clemson teams have a "mental block" when it comes to the NCAAs.

"I think there will probably be a perception among some people. I certainly don't subscribe to that," Purnell said. "Next year we'll have a different team. This team was different from last year's team. And that's the approach I think that we have to take."

Purnell's NCAA doughnut is even more incredible when you consider his teams have put together 12 seasons with at least 20 wins. He's been at Clemson seven years and compiled a 138-89 record -- including 93-41 the last four years.

"I thought our guys were determined to win today," Purnell said. "I thought they prepared well, they played hard. I wouldn't say we played extremely well because we turned the ball over too much in the first half. We kind of fixed that in the second half and we couldn't finish at the rim, which is where we want to get it.

"I wouldn't say we played extremely well, but we competed, we were ready, they wanted it and it just didn't happen for us. Hopefully we can get back next year. It's extremely difficult to get here out of the ACC, and have a different outcome."

***

CBS announcer Gus Johnson got out of his chair at the end of the first game and heard a voice yelling his name. Maybe that happens all the time but Johnson reacted to this voice and saluted it.

The reason? It was the voice of former Bills great and current CBS colleague Steve Tasker, seated in prime seats at center court. Also nearby was Medaille men's coach Mike MacDonald, the former Canisius bench boss. MacDonald's team advanced to the second round of this year's NCAA Division III Tournament.

***

The media throng of more than 200 reporters struggled to get Internet access for most of the afternoon session as the arena's wireless system was either inoperable or woefully slow. The culprit was a Syracuse-based freelance photographer who had clandestinely set up his own wireless network, crashing the NCAA's network that reporters pay for on a daily basis.

Setting up a personal network is a big no-no under NCAA rules and the culprit was ejected from the building and had his credential revoked by officials of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

***

Morgan State senior guard and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year Reggie Holmes was held to 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting and finished his career with a school-record 2,061. Chants of "Reggie, Reggie" arose from the Bears seating section when Holmes subbed out inside the final minute and was embraced by coach Todd Bozeman.

"I feel great about my career," Holmes said. "Right now I'm not thinking about it. I'm still mad about the loss. But I feel great to have two championships -- two conference championships and three regular-season championships since I've been here."

***

Special defensive assignments are the norm for Devin Ebanks, the 6-foot-9 West Virginia sophomore who shut down Holmes.

"He's played everybody. We put him on [Villanova's] Scottie Reynolds for instance," WVU coach Bob Huggins said. "We've put him on a lot of small guys. And Dev has good feet. He's got good feet but he has such great length. . . . He's done a really good job on smaller guys for us."

"I heard Huggs say he put him on Scottie Reynolds," Bozeman said. "If he can guard Scottie Reynolds . . ."

***

With the NCAA Tournament in town, it's a great weekend to bring in a recruit, and Canisius has combo guard Ashton Khan on campus for an official visit, according to a source.

The 6-1 Khan, from Scarborough, Ont., is considering UB and Green Bay, according to ESPN.com.

The Griffs are making a play for more and more Canadian talent. They already have a verbal commitment from another Canadian combo guard in Jahenns Manigat, who hails from Regional Elite Development Academy in Hamilton and is originally from Ottawa.

***

Gonzaga center Robert Sacre is one of four Canadians on the Bulldogs roster, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he got a kick out of hearing his country's national anthem before his team met Florida State.

"We don't play it enough at Gonzaga, so I thought I might as well take it in," said Sacre, a native of North Vancouver. "I was enjoying it a lot."

Sacre said his favorite NHL team is, not surprisingly, the hometown Canucks. He also was ready when a reporter quizzed him on Buffalo Sabres history.

"Dominik Hasek was one of the greatest goalies of all time," Sacre said. "When he brought them to the [Stanley Cup finals against the Dallas Stars], that was amazing."

Sacre offered a bit of levity when someone asked him about his favorite curler.

"Leslie Nielsen in "Men With Brooms"," he cracked.

e-mail: sports@buffnews.com

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