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Clear Spring native in NCAA Tournament

March 18, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Alex Tyler made a quick road trip to Idaho in 2007 with his father, Greg. There were no basketballs on the visit, just a look at Yellowstone National Park.

Two years later, the Clear Spring native is back in Idaho with basketball in hand as he and his Cornell University teammates get ready for the men's NCAA Tournament.

No. 14 seed Cornell tips off against No. 3 seed Missouri at 3 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the West Regional at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Cornell (21-9) received an automatic bid as the Ivy League champion for the second straight season.

"We knew we could go anywhere, and for us it works out good because we are also getting Missouri away from their Kansas City home base," Tyler said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "The only bad thing is our fans can't get out here."

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The former Clear Spring High School and Mercersburg Academy standout has been a regular in the starting lineup this year. He's shooting 49 percent from the field, 72 percent from the foul line and averages 6.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Those numbers are down slightly from a year ago, but Tyler isn't worried.

"We have become a more balanced team," he said. "When people focus on any of the other three guys, I know I'll get my shot."

Tyler said the nonconference portion of Cornell's schedule paid dividends. The Big Red lost five of their first nine games, including losses to Syracuse and Minnesota.

"It was definitely a tougher schedule than last year and we even had our point guard (Louis Dale) out for the early part of the season," Tyler said.

The Cornell players finished midterm exams Wednesday before boarding a chartered flight to Boise.

"We'll get a couple of practices in before the game and get used to the air," said Tyler, a junior majoring in applied economics and management.

Cornell was a No. 14 seed in last year's tournament when it lost 77-53 to Stanford in the first round.

"It's always a goal reaching the NCAAs, and with the talent we had after my freshman year we stepped it up," Tyler said.

While preparing for Missouri (28-6), Tyler said practices have been specific.

"Missouri is an up-tempo team and likes to create havoc," he said. "We've worked on press-breaking drills and being ball-tough with quickness. We want to create turnovers. We've been trying to push the ball upcourt all year and the way Missouri plays, they can give some open looks in transition."

The winner of Friday's game willplay Sunday against the winner of Friday's game between No. 6 seed Marquette and No. 11 seed Utah State.

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