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Friday, April 2, 2010
Duke remembers '08 loss to Mountaineers

By Pat Forde

INDIANAPOLIS –- It was two years ago, but the memories are pretty fresh.

And so are the postgame quotes.

West Virginia didn’t just beat Duke in the 2008 NCAA tournament.

It beat Duke up, beat Duke down, beat Duke sideways. And then the Mountaineers mocked the Blue Devils on the way to the Sweet 16.

At one point in the game, Joe Mazzulla got down and slapped the floor, Dukie style. (“A spur-of-the-moment thing,” Mazzulla said.) And several WVU players remarked after the 73-67 victory how unimpressed they were with the blue-blood Blue Devils.

Mountaineers forward Wellington Smith: “It's just a name on the front of a jersey,” he said. “It's not like they have Jason Williams or Carlos Boozer anymore.”

Mountaineers star Joe Alexander, after crushing Duke 45-19 on the glass: “We knew that coming in that they were just going to stand around and not rebound, so we were ready to exploit that.”

Mountaineers reserve Cam Thoroughman, when told that point guard Greg Paulus was one of eight McDonald’s All-Americans on the Duke roster: “Oh my God. Are you kidding?”

West Virginia did everything but graffiti Cameron Indoor Stadium and draw a mustache on Mike Krzyzewski (the latter disrespect was performed Friday by the Indianapolis Star). And there was nothing the Devils could do about it.

It’s safe to say that Duke has not forgotten.

“I definitely remember the game,” senior guard Jon Scheyer said. “You do remember parts of what people say.”

Anyone think those quotes might have found their way onto the Duke locker room bulletin boards? Maybe?

“Yeah, yeah, I'm sure I am,” Thoroughman said Friday. “But that doesn't bother me too much. That's OK with me.”

Thoroughman said his ’08 comments weren’t “supposed to be for the media. I didn't mean to disrespect anybody.” But he did. And you can be sure that Duke is making a big deal about it, as every team would in that situation.

“Of course we want to beat a team that knocked us out two years ago,” Scheyer said. “Who wouldn’t? That’s our approach.”

Duke certainly will be eager to show how much it has grown up since that whipping in Washington, D.C. Especially inside. The finesse Blue Devils team that was mauled on the backboard then looks much more rugged now.

Duke has pulled down a whopping 63 offensive rebounds on 125 missed shots this NCAA tournament and is a plus-45 on the glass through four games. The Devils’ two senior big men, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas, have gotten bigger and better, and they are buttressed by brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee off the bench.

“They’re a lot more aggressive on the boards this year, especially offensively,” said West Virginia’s Da'Sean Butler. “Zoubek and Lance Thomas and (Kyle) Singler do a great job of just attacking offensive boards. For us to be successful this year, I believe we need to neutralize that, make sure we don’t let them get to the offensive glass as much as they usually do. Coach said they’re the best on the offensive glass that we’ve played all year.”

The Mountaineers, of course, aren’t too bad in that department either. Ken Pomeroy’s stats rate them the No. 2 offensive rebounding team in the country. So this figures to be quite the Toughman Contest in the paint.

The question is this: If it tilts West Virginia’s way again, will Mazzulla slap the floor once more?

“Depends on how the game goes,” he said.