MacCulloch Carries Huskies into Sweet 16
March 14, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) - Three days ago, Richmond coach John Beilein had never heard of Todd MacCulloch. Now, at his own expense, he's become a true believer in the 7-foot, former schoolboy hockey player from Canada.
"He's as quick off his feet for somebody that size that I've seen," said Beilein, shaking his head. "I'm not a bigtime coach, but I don't see many guys that have that finesse and that feel for the ball and quick off their feet. He's just very, very talented."
In a throwback to the days when the big man was the only man, MacCulloch put an end to Richmond's final-16 dreams Saturday. The junior center from Winnipeg had 31 points and 18 rebounds and thoroughly dominated the game as 11th-seeded Washington beat No. 14 Richmond 81-66 to advance past the NCAA tournament's second round for the first time since 1984.
"It's no secret," Washington coach Bob Bender said. "We play at a different level when Todd has games like he did today."
MacCulloch gave up hockey in part because he wasn't the physical type, but his imposing presence left the Spiders searching for answers that never came. The nation's leader in field goal percentage, he fought off double teams to make 14-of-24 shots from the field, and finished with only six fewer rebounds than the entire Richmond team.
"He's 7-foot in the middle," said Nick Patrick, who gave up 5 inches and 65 pounds to MacCulloch whenever he helped on the double-team. "There's not much you can do about that."
MacCulloch scored 17 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, including nine in a row as the Huskies turned a 36-29 halftime lead into a 64-48 advantage with 9:56 to play.
Eleventh-seeded Washington (20-9), which beat No. 7 seed Xavier in the first round, reached the 20-win mark for the first time since the 1986-87 season.
"I don't have words for it," point guard Donald Watts said. "I just feel like dancing. I missed my senior prom, so I just want to dance."
Jarod Stevenson scored 21 points to lead 14th-seeded Richmond (23-8), whose jubilant one-point victory over No. 3 South Carolina on Thursday was the first major upset of the tournament.
"We had a new coach and we turned things around from the last two seasons," senior Daryl Oliver said. "The loss doesn't take anything away from the season we had. We're disappointed individually, but this is an experience I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
MacCulloch ruled from the opening tipoff, with 10 points and six rebounds in the first seven minutes. Richmond tried to guard him primarily with Eric Poole, who is four inches shorter and 55 pounds lighter.
When the double team was too much for MacCulloch, he would simply find Deon Luton, who would be left open to make one of his five 3-pointers. Luton finished with 18 points, while guards Watts and Wooten combined for 12 assists.
"All those guys got penetration and things got easy for me," MacCulloch said. "I'm just the one that gets the reward. They should get the points, because they're the ones that created the whole thing."
At the other end, MacCulloch intimidated Richmond from taking the ball inside. The Spiders were settling for wayward 3-point attempts until, down 16-9 and following a timeout, Poole scored over the 7-footer for the team's first points inside.
That play seem to kick-start the Spiders somewhat, as they started taking the ball inside more often. Stevenson dunked home an offensive rebound and made two 3-pointers, and Richmond was within 31-29 before Washington scored the last five points of the half.
MacCulloch was unstoppable for 10 minutes after the break, putting back offensive rebounds and scoring over Poole and anybody else in his way. The Spiders got within single digits one final time with a 7-0 run to make it 64-55 with 8:34 left, but failed to score a field goal for the next 7:26 as Watts led a 15-3 Huskies run.
Washington outrebounded Richmond 45-24. Richmond didn't take a free throw until 15:42 to play and only attempted four for the game. The Spiders had averaged 22 free throws per game in their five NCAA tournament victories and nine per game in their five previous losses.