HAMPTON COACH Edward Joyner Jr. had joked he'd need a lot of help if his team advanced to play No. 1 Kentucky.
"Jesus on speed dial," he kidded.
So after Hampton extended its unlikely run, beating Manhattan, 74-64, last night in the First Four to dial up a date with the mighty Wildcats, Joyner grabbed a cell phone and pretended to make a really, really long-distance call.
"Hello? Hello?" he said at a postgame news conference.
Then he put down the phone, laughed, and said, "I guess he'll get back to me."
Reginald Johnson scored 15 points and made two critical defensive plays down the stretch and Quinton Chievous added 15 points and 13 rebounds before leaving with a sprained ankle in the final minutes.
The Pirates (17-17) scored the first seven points, led by as many as 12 in the opening half and then, after Manhattan had rallied within a point, pulled away at the finish.
Johnson sealed the game with two huge steals, the second leading to his floor-length assist pass to Emmanuel Okoroba for a layup. Okoroba then hit a scoop shot on a drive and the lead was 67-58 with 90 seconds remaining. Manhattan (19-14) never threatened again.
The 68th team in a 68-team field, Hampton won as an underdog yet again.
"We love that. We take that head on," said Brian Darden, who scored 13 points including clinching free throws at the end. "That's our image."
Shane Richards scored 17 points and Emmy Andujar 11 for the Jaspers, champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.
"You have to give Hampton credit," said coach Steve Masiello, who played 4 years at Kentucky and would have been the center of attention in Louisville had his team won. "I know we're all caught up in whether they had a losing record, [the fact that] they're 68th and we're 67. But they came out and played tonight."
Chievous said Hampton will have to have an attitude when it tackles Kentucky.
"It's really just going in with a great mindset," he said. "Not being intimidated. And just playing as hard as we can and knocking down all our shots and just never giving up. When adversity hits us, we can't get down on ourselves. We just gotta keep playing."
Hampton is the 24th team to make the NCAA Tournament field with a losing record - and became the third in four years to win a game.
Stefan Moody scored 26 points and led Mississippi's comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit to a 94-90 victory over BYU last night.
The Rebels (21-12) trailed until Moody led a 15-2 run midway through the second half. He hit a late three-pointer that helped finish off the tournament's first big comeback.
Ole Miss goes to Jacksonville, Fla., to play sixth-seeded Xavier tomorrow afternoon in the East Region.
BYU (25-10) pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history in Dayton 3 years ago, rallying from a 25-point first-half deficit to a 78-72 win over Iona. This time, the Cougars couldn't hold the big lead.