"Little Monster" not spooked by Strickland
by Mason King Jul 17, 2004, 12:30 AM EST

Earl Strickland

American bad-boy Earl Strickland became a lightning rod for the ire of the normally polite Taiwanese fans as he fussed and fidgeted through his round-of-16 match Friday night against the baby-faced Po-Cheng Kuo of Chinese Taipei.

The 26-year-old Kuo, who appears 10 years younger, withstood an intense sharking campaign by Strickland, who tried staring down his opponent during the match and peppering him with snarky comments. It was enough to earn "The Pearl" an official warning from referee Michaela Tabb after the 12th rack for intimidation and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Certainly, the Taiwanese crowd already was rooting for Kuo, but Strickland's antics and standoffish attitude inspired them to wildly applaud the American's mistakes. His back-breaking error was a scratch after knocking in the 5 ball with the score tied 8-8; Kuo took the next three games to win 11-8.

Kuo, a Leonardo DiCaprio type whose nickname is "The Little Monster," took a 4-0 lead before Strickland tied the match at 6-6. But Strickland drew more attention for his various complaints than his level of play. At one point, Strickland bitterly complained that Kuo had tried to shark him by taking a sip from his water bottle while he was up to shoot. He also said to his opponent, "You're a noisy little guy," when Kuo made a noise placing his cue down after returning to his seat. Strickland didn't help his case with Tabb after making a show of checking her racks several times.

After breaking at 10-8, Kuo faced a tough shot on the 1, which was partially blocked from the corner pocket by the 3. After some deliberation, he decided to try to power it through, but he hit cue ball thin. Fortunately, the result was banking the 1 off the long rail and into the opposite corner pocket. His subsequent runout sent an avalanche of fans coursing down from stands and inspired a near-standing ovation from the rest of the crowd.

"That was a lucky shot," Kuo said, laughing, in the press conference after the match.

Kuo also said through an interpreter that he considered the victory the biggest of his career, and that he was prepared at the onset of the match for Strickland's behavior. Strickland declined to comment when approached by BD.

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