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Duke escapes with narrow one-point victory

Thursday, March 20, 2008

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Mighty, mighty Duke let teeny, tiny Belmont play with the big boys. And, for stretches, get the better of them.

No. 2-seeded Duke actually trailed in the final 15 seconds before barely avoiding the monumental upset, using every last one of Gerald Henderson's 21 points to edge No. 15 Belmont 71-70 in the first round of the West Regional on Thursday night.

While Belmont couldn't quite pull off the stunner, it was surprising enough how close this game was. In a matchup between a school with three NCAA titles -- that would be Duke, of course -- and another that never has won a game in the tournament, it was Henderson's driving basket with 11.9 seconds left that erased Belmont's final lead.

After ACC defensive player of the year DeMarcus Nelson stole the ensuing inbounds pass, he was fouled, but he missed at the line. Belmont got the rebound, and one final chance to make history, with 2.2 seconds left. The Bruins' leading scorer, Justin Hare, got a good look at the basket from about 35 feet away, but his shot clanged off the iron. He winced, and Duke celebrated as though it had won far more than an opening-round game -- something it actually failed to do a year ago.

Duke (28-5) advanced this time to face Arizona or West Virginia on Saturday.

And Belmont (25-9) can go home with heads held high.

South Regional

Marquette 74, Kentucky 66

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Jerel McNeal scored 20 points and Wesley Matthews hit eight free throws in the final 31 seconds to help Marquette beat Kentucky in the first round of the South Regional.

The Golden Eagles overcame 35 points by Kentucky senior Joe Crawford, who matched a career high before fouling out. Ramel Bradley added 19 for the Wildcats (18-13).

Sixth-seeded Marquette (25-9) earned its first NCAA tournament victory since 2003, when it beat Kentucky in the regional final to go to the Final Four. Marquette gets third-seeded Stanford next.

Kentucky cut it to 66-63 on Crawford's 3-pointer from the top of the key with 38 seconds left. After Matthews hit two free throws, Bradley hit a 3-pointer from the corner to get the Wildcats within two with 22 seconds remaining.

Matthews made two more free throws, then stole the ball and hit two more to ice the game.

Stanford 77, Cornell 53

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Kenny Brown scored 18 points and third-seeded Stanford earned its first NCAA tournament win since 2004, routing Cornell in a matchup of players as good with the books as they are with a basketball.

Lewis Dale, the Ivy League player of the year, scored 12 points, Adam Gore had 11 and Alex Tyler 10 for 14th-seeded Cornell (22-6), which had its 16-game winning streak snapped. The Ivy League hasn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1998.

The game's first 10 minutes were close, with Cornell down by just three points despite starting out 3-of-15 from the field. Then Stanford took over and it got ugly fast.

The Cardinal (27-7) outscored Cornell 43-11 over both halves for a 58-23 lead. Robin Lopez and Taj Finger scored six straight each at the start of the second half, then Brown hit two 3s.

Pittsburgh 82, Oral Roberts 63

DENVER (AP) -- Levance Fields scored 23 points, Sam Young finished with 14 and Pittsburgh won its sixth straight game.

Fourth-seeded Pitt (27-9) is making its seventh straight NCAA tournament appearance, though none of those previous teams have made it past the third round.

This team looks different, though -- coming off the Big East tournament championship and playing its best basketball of the season in March, for once, instead of January or February.

Next up, an intriguing matchup Saturday against fifth-seeded Michigan State, a team with a big-and-brawny reputation much like Pitt's.

Robert Jarvis had 16 points for the Golden Eagles (24-9), who won the Summit League tourney to make their third straight trip to the NCAAs. Andre Hardy added 15 and Moses Ehambe 13.

Michigan State 72, Temple 61

DENVER (AP) -- Raymar Morgan led a balanced attack with 15 points and Michigan State advanced despite a sudden shooting slump from spark plug Drew Neitzel.

Last year, Neitzel was the Spartans' only option on offense. Now, he's got scorers swarming all around. Chris Allen scored 12 points and fellow freshmen Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers each added eight for fifth-seeded Michigan State (26-8).

Mark Tyndale scored 16 points for Temple (21-13). Dionte Christmas, the Owls' leading scorer, was limited to three points, 17 below his average, on 1-of-12 shooting.

Neitzel, who averages 14.2 points, scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Midwest Regional

Kansas 85, Portland State 61

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Brandon Rush scored 18 points and everyone wearing blue had a blast, as top-seeded Kansas began its NCAA tournament with a rout of overmatched Portland.

Kansas' five seniors and Rush, a junior star who might be headed to the NBA, are determined to go out in style after some bitter disappointments in the tournament.

The Jayhawks still remember being knocked off two straight years in the opening round, losing stunners to 14th-seeded Bucknell in 2005 and No. 13 Bradley in '06. Last year, they were within one victory of the Final Four but lost to UCLA in the regional finals.

Kansas will play eighth-seeded UNLV in the second round on Saturday.

The Jayhawks (32-3) led all the way against the Vikings (23-10), 22-point underdogs who simply didn't have enough weapons to cope with the size, depth and skill of a Big 12 power.

UNLV 71, Kent St. 58

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Joe Darger scored 18 points and UNLV tied an NCAA tournament record by holding Kent State to just 10 points in the first half.

The Mid-American Conference champions averaged a turnover a minute the better part of the first half, went almost 8 minutes without a point and trailed 31-10 at halftime. And that was with UNLV shooting under 40 percent and committing nine turnovers of its own.

The 10 points were the fewest since Wake Forest scored that many against Butler in 2001.

Darger made four 3-pointers and Wink Adams scored 17 for UNLV (27-7).

Mike Scott led Kent State (28-7) with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Kansas State 80, USC 67

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Turns out, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo weren't the only freshmen on the court.

Redshirt freshman Bill Walker scored 22 points, true freshmen Jacob Pullen and Ron Anderson also reached double figures, and Kansas State's Kiddie Corps moved on in the NCAA tournament, beating Mayo-led USC.

Beasley overcame early trouble to have another big game for the Wildcats (21-11), scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the 27th double-double of his brilliant -- and likely only -- college season. West Regional

Xavier 73, Georgia 61

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Derrick Brown's 19 points and 11 rebounds led a balanced-as-usual offense, and No. 3-seeded Xavier avoided a big upset by rallying to overcome fading Georgia.

Super-sub Josh Duncan scored 20 for the Musketeers (28-6), who trailed by as many as 11 in the second half but conjured up a 22-6 run to come back. Xavier used a significant discrepancy in free throws -- 27-for-33 against 3-for-5 for Georgia -- and tied a school record for wins.

Xavier will play Purdue on Saturday in the second round.

Terrance Woodbury had 16 points and do-everything guard Sundiata Gaines' finished with 13 for Georgia (17-17), which could not sustain the energy it summoned during last week's run to the SEC tournament title. The Bulldogs were 13-16 before the conference tourney, yet somehow won four games in as many days to save coach Dennis Felton's job and extend their season.

Purdue 90, Baylor 79

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Keaton Grant scored 17 points and Purdue built a 19-point halftime lead, then cruised to its 10th straight in the first round since 1993.

E'Twaun Moore added 16 for the sixth-seeded Boilermakers (25-8), who have won 15 of 18.

Baylor, meanwhile, will have to wait another year before seeking to end a 58-year winless drought in the NCAA tournament. The Bears (21-11) were making their first trip to the tournament since 1988 and second since 1950.

Curtis Jerrells had 27 points and eight assists for Baylor, LaceDarius Dunn scored 15 and Henry Dugat added 13.

Texas A&M 67, BYU 62

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Josh Carter scored 26 points, matching his career high, as Texas A&M defeated Brigham Young, handing the Cougars their sixth straight opening-round loss.

Joseph Jones added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the ninth-seeded Aggies.

Jonathan Tavernari led BYU with 15 points.

The Cougars erased their big early deficit, and they nearly climbed out of a six-point hole in the final minute. Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer with 59 seconds to play sliced the Aggies' lead to 63-60.

But Dominique Kirk answered with a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, and Jones hit a free throw 11 seconds later to put the game away.

East Regional

Washington State 71, Winthrop 40

DENVER (AP) -- The Washington State Cougars broke away from a halftime tie to whip Winthrop in the East Regional behind 19 points and eight rebounds from Aron Baynes.

Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill each had 14 and Derrick Low scored 11 for Washington State (25-8), which will play the Notre Dame-George Mason winner in the second round on Saturday at the Pepsi Center.

The Cougars, who are 51-16 under Tony Bennett, broke open a 29-29 halftime tie with a 23-4 run to cruise to their second straight opening-round win in the NCAA tournament.

After making 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Eagles (22-12) stayed away from Baynes and Cowgill down low and missed their first seven shots, four of them from three-point range.

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