College Basketball Nation: 2010 NCAA Jacksonville

Duke V. CaliforniaBob Donnan/US PresswireNolan Smith scored 20 points and shut down Jerome Randle in Duke's win over California.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nolan Smith never slapped the floor.

But had the Duke guard chosen to go that route on Sunday, well even the most hardened Blue Devils haters might have cut him some slack. Smith's defensive effort against California star Jerome Randle set the tone for his team's incident-free, 68-53 second-round NCAA Tournament victory.

Randle was the Pac-10 player of the year, an explosive scorer because of his speed and nearly unlimited shooting range. Against Duke and Smith, though, he finished with just 12 points, including only one field goal after halftime.

Smith also had his way on the other end, scoring a game-high 20 points.

"Nolan, he just dominated that matchup," Blue Devils forward Lance Thomas said. "Randle had nothing for him. He took the initiative and picked him up from three-quarters of the court and let him know it was going to be a fight all game. And Nolan knocked him out."

Duke has been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by the round of 16 in seven of the past eight years and in each of the past five seasons. Its hopes of going longer seem stronger this time, largely because of defense.

The Blue Devils allowed just 61.7 points per game in the regular season, its lowest total since 1950. First-round opponent Arkansas-Pine Bluff mustered just 44 points, while Cal -- which came in averaging 78 points per game -- was held to its lowest score since Feb. 28, 2008.

Defense is why Duke could get nothing from Jon Scheyer, miss 14 of its 17 3-point shots -- a harbinger of tournament death in the recent past -- and still win.

"I don't know if we'll go any further, but this is a better team because it can play total defense," Krzyzewski said. "I mean, someone will say in the past, they relied on the 3-point shot. Well, what else were we going to rely on?

"This team is better. It's not a great team, but it's an excellent defensive team."

That defense starts with Smith, who takes on the challenge of guarding the other team's main ball handler every night. His assignment on Sunday loomed as one of his more daunting tasks, and Randle scored seven points in the first 10 minutes, including a pair of layups.

"I got really upset with myself," Smith said.

From then on, though, Randle was the one feeling bad about things. Smith smacked the ball away as Randle tried to attempt a last-second shot before the half. Randle went just 1-for-5 in the second half while Smith wore him down on offense in what Krzyzewski called "a marvelous performance."

"I wanted to pick him up as early as I could," Smith said. "I've seen films where he'd come up and shoot from 30 feet while guys are backpedaling. Today I was just up in him. He had to look at me before he looked at the rim tonight."

Duke has always prided itself at guarding the perimeter, even if some of its guards were limited athletically. Now Krzyzewski has a ferocious on-ball defender in Smith and length with guys like Kyle Singler, Thomas and 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds on Sunday. Even if they get beat off the dribble, the Blue Devils now have confidence that someone on the back line will swat away the shot or take a charge.

And that has the team thinking bigger things than the Sweet 16 this year.

"If we defend and rebound, I think we can beat anyone," Thomas said. "I don't care who we play. If we stick to our defensive game plan, we can take anyone out."

Final: Duke 68, California 53

March, 21, 2010
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first weekend of the NCAA tournament went about as smoothly as Duke could have hoped.

The Blue Devils didn't fall victim to a shocking upset and received hardly a challenge on their way to the Sweet 16. And given their recent tournament history, that's noteworthy in itself.

Duke methodically took down eighth-seeded California 68-53 on Sunday. The Golden Bears made one little run in the second half to get within seven points at 44-37, but the Blue Devils quickly extinguished that fire and kept the margin safely at double digits down the stretch.

It was an impressive defensive effort against a California team that lives to run-and-gun and shoots from anywhere beyond the midcourt stripe. The Bears went just 3-for-12 on three-pointers and their Big Three of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher were held in check, totaling just 35 points.

Duke's Nolan Smith led all scorers with 20 points and hounded Randle defensively. Brian Zoubek had 14 points and 12 rebounds, six of them on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils owned a 38-24 advantage on points in the paint.

Red-hot Big Red keeps on rolling

March, 21, 2010
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Kim Klement/US PresswireLouis Dale's 26 points keyed a Big Red attack Sunday that tore up what had been a stingy Wisconsin defense.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As he headed back to his jubilant locker room, Cornell point guard Louis Dale stopped to sign a hat from a fan. It was a University of Alabama cap, sure, but at least it had the right red-and-white colors, and Alabama is Dale's home state.

Then another fan dropped a hat for Dale to sign. This one was blue.

"A Kentucky hat?" Dale said, incredulously eyeing the UK logo before throwing the hat back into the stands. "You've got to be kidding me. Get that out of here."

We are not kidding about this: Kentucky had better watch out for Cornell in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. After the way the 12th-seeded Big Red played this weekend in Jacksonville -- especially in Sunday's 87-69 dismantling of Wisconsin -- they must be considered as much of a threat as anyone left in the NCAA Tournament.

Temple and Wisconsin owned two of the best defenses in the country this season, according to the stats. Yet here is what Cornell did to those defenses: shot a combined 58.8 percent from the floor and 44.7 percent on three-pointers while averaging 82.5 points.

Wisconsin had allowed 70 points only three times all year, two of those coming in overtime games. Yet Bo Ryan's defense got sliced like a machete through warm gouda. Cornell shot 61.1 percent, the highest percentage by any team against the Badgers in the Ryan era.

"In our half-court defense, we thought we did some pretty good things," Ryan said. "But that's how good they are. ... I'm not sure if three or four days' [preparation] would have stopped what they do, because they just do it well."

When you think of Ivy League teams, you probably envision those old Princeton teams that worked the ball around, running backdoor screen after backdoor screen. But Cornell is far more diverse than that.

Yes, it can make a back cut with the best of them. But against Wisconsin, the Big Red scored on give-and-gos, alley oops, tear-drop floaters and in transition. Ryan Wittman (24 points) can create his own shot at 6-foot-7, and Dale (26 points) can get in the lane against anybody, as he proved repeatedly against the Badgers' all-Big Ten defensive team performer Trevon Hughes. Then there's seven-footer Jeff Foote, who eats up space on screens and is a deft passer.

"We have a lot of players who can score in a variety of ways," Foote said. "Ryan and Louis did their thing today, and when they do that, we're tough to stop."

Foote predicted at the start of the season that his team would make the Sweet 16, and Cornell became the first Ivy League school since Penn made the Final Four in 1979 to advance to the second weekend. No one on the team seems all that surprised by the development.

"It really doesn't matter who we're playing," forward Jon Jacques said. "We're confident in ourselves. Our confidence is definitely growing each game."

So is their goofiness. The players have been joking around all weekend, displaying the comfort of a group making its third straight trip to March Madness. The team watched "Friday Night Lights" on Saturday night and told Dale he had to work a quote from the movie into his postgame press conference. Dale pulled it off, while his teammates erupted with laughter while watching him on a TV in the locker room.

Does that kind of stuff happen a lot?

"Well, we don't usually have many press conferences," Dale said.

Coach Steve Donahue said his team likes to have fun but knows when to get serious. It showed in their preparations this weekend, as they got off to strong starts in both games and trailed for a total of 2:43, all at the beginning in the Temple game. Donahue called Cornell's offensive execution against Wisconsin the best he'd ever seen as a coach.

Next comes perhaps the biggest David vs. Goliath matchup in the history of the Sweet 16: Cornell against top-seeded Kentucky. A program whose first two NCAA Tournament wins came this weekend vs. one with seven NCAA titles. A school that doesn't give athletic scholarships vs. one that has four likely lottery picks. Unrecruited seniors vs. blue-chip freshmen. Big Red vs. Big Blue.

And it will take place in Syracuse, N.Y., about 55 miles from Cornell's campus.

"It's an amazing story, " said Mark Coury, who started 29 games at Kentucky before transferring to Cornell, where he comes off the bench. "We won our last two games by a lot of points, but obviously Kentucky is a whole different level. But if we run our offense efficiently and play good defense, I think we'll have a chance."

Kentucky had better be prepared. Or else the Wildcats will become the latest team to have their hats handed to them by Cornell.

Halftime: Duke 37, Cal 24

March, 21, 2010
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quick impressions of the first half between Duke and California, which the Blue Devils lead 37-24:

  • Cal was hanging around, trailing just 20-17 until Duke went on a big run to close the half. The Blue Devils have succeeded in their main goal of forcing the Golden Bears to execute in the half court, as they've given up no fast-break points so far. They especially limited Cal's transition opportunities in the final minutes of the half, which helped them go on their run.
  • Nolan Smith had a terrific first half. Not only does he have 11 points, but he's done a solid job defending against Cal's leading scorer, Jerome Randle. Smith kept Randle from getting a clean look just before halftime and was nearly mobbed by teammates coming off the floor on the way to the locker room. It's safe to say Duke has all the momentum here right now.
  • Cal loves to shoot from deep and needs to hit a bunch of threes to have a chance, but it was just 1-for-6 behind the arc in the first half as Duke did a good job closing out on shooters. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, have shot an even 50 percent and are exploiting their size advantage inside.

Final: Cornell 87, Wisconsin 69

March, 21, 2010
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Brain Train keeps chugging along.

Cornell didn't just win two games here in Jacksonville this weekend; it dominated them both. After a 13-point win over Temple on Friday, the 12th-seeded Ivy Leaguers destroyed No. 4 seed Wisconsin 87-69 Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Cornell scored the first eight points, led by 12 at halftime and blew the doors open early in the second half. The Big Red scored more points against Wisconsin in regulation than any of the Badgers' opponents this year. They shot a sizzling 61 percent and probably could have scored 100 had they not called off the dogs late in the game.

Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale each had 24 points, while Jeff Foote and Chris Wroblewski added 12 each.

The Badgers looked dazed and confused throughout the second half, as if they couldn't believe anyone, let alone an Ivy League school, could so thoroughly dissect their defense like that. Bo Ryan even earned a technical foul during the half.

Like most people, I expected the Big Red to be good. But the level of their performance this weekend was simply astounding, and it's not crazy to suggest that they can beat No. 1 seed Kentucky in the next round.

If they play the way they did in Jacksonville this weekend, the Brain Train is going to be tough for anyone to stop.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quick impressions of the first half here at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, where 12th-seeded Cornell leads No. 4 Wisconsin, 43-31:

  • Can't say this result is all that surprising, since Cornell was the most impressive team here Friday outside of maybe Duke. After shooting 57 percent in a first-round win over Temple, the Big Red connected on 59.3 percent in the first half against Wisconsin. This is a Badgers team that only allows 56 points per game, and Cornell is 13 points away from that figure already. The reason? Steve Donahue's team runs crisp, offensive sets, and his guys just don't miss open looks. The Big Red also look like the quicker and more athletic team, and they've hustled to keep many balls alive. Emblematic of that was a play late in the half, when Jeff Foote tipped out an offensive rebound to Chris Wroblewski, who drained a three from the top of the key. Cornell has scored 21 points off turnovers or offensive rebounds, or almost half its points so far.
  • Jon Leuer scored Wisconsin's first 12 points, and for a while it looked like he might have to carry the entire load. But Jason Bohannon chipped in seven first-half points, breaking out of a prolonged shooting slump. When he hit his first three-pointer, the Badgers fan section erupted. They know how important he is to this team as a bona fide third scoring option behind Leuer and Trevon Hughes.
  • Hughes, though, has struggled. He has five points but also five turnovers. Wisconsin as a team had only four turnovers against Wofford on Friday. Louis Dale has done a great job of slowing down Hughes's penetration, and Dale has scored eight points on the other end.
  • Like they did against Temple, the Big Red aren't getting a ton of stops, as Wisconsin shot 52.2 percent in the half. But as long as they keep making the Badgers have to score every time down to keep pace, they'll be just fine. Bo Ryan needs his team to get back to its patented suffocating defense in the second half to make a rally.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first batch of games here in Jacksonville lacked the drama that gripped some of the other sites. Three of the first four contests were decided by double digits.

But with Cornell, Duke, Cal and Wisconsin, I'd put this pod's SAT scores up against any other subregional. Here's a look at the games on tap for Sunday:

Cornell (12) vs. Wisconsin (4), 2:50 p.m.

Key to the game: Cornell can shoot it as well as anybody. Wisconsin defends as well as anybody. Sounds simplistic, but that's basically what this game boils down to. Cornell dissected Temple, another good defensive team, in the first round, getting pretty much whatever open looks it wanted. Wisconsin rarely allows anybody to feel comfortable, but its defensive philosophy of chasing shooters off the three-point line will be challenged by a team with four players capable of draining the long ball at any time.

"We have to try to take away their air space," Badgers forward Jon Leuer said. "When you have a guy breathing right down your neck when you come off a screen, it makes you think twice about shooting a 3. We have to make them put it on the floor and hopefully take some tough jumpers."

Player to watch: Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes. He makes the Badgers go, and his ability to penetrate and dish could cause problems for Cornell's defense. Louis Dale will be under a lot of pressure to slow Hughes down.

Who has the edge: Believe it or not, Cornell. Wisconsin has struggled shooting the ball lately, and the Big Red is riding a huge wave of confidence right now. They proved they could handle a deliberate, defensive-minded team in the first round and will be headed to the Sweet 16 if they play the same way today.

California (8) vs. Duke (1), 5:15 p.m.

Key to the game: The Golden Bears and Blue Devils meet in the tournament for the first time since Jason Kidd outdueled Bobby Hurley in 1993. Duke's trio of Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer garner a lot of attention, but Cal has its own Big Three with Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. Emphasize the word "three" with that group, because all of them like to let it fly from way beyond the college arc, as Louisville found out Friday night. They give the underdog Bears a shooter's chance.

"We haven't played a team with this many weapons from the outside," Scheyer said. "It's all about being disciplined on defense."

Duke, though, has a major advantage in size, as Cal's only starter over 6-foot-6 is former Blue Devils transfer Jamal Boykin. And this is one of the best defensive teams, at least statistically, that Mike Krzyzewski has ever fielded. Duke will have to close out on shooters and prevent the Bears from getting runouts in transition like they did Friday against Louisville.

Player to watch: Randle. The point guard, whom Krzyzewski called "a blur," can change the game with his speed, deep range and near-automatic foul shooting. He'll be matched up against Duke's best on-ball defender in Smith.

Who has the edge: Duke. Cal had a nice performance against Louisville, but hasn't proved it can beat an elite team yet this season. The Blue Devils should be able to ride their length and depth to avoid the same second-round fate as fellow No. 1 seed Kansas.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some big men arrived pre-packaged. They dominated high school competition, made a pit stop in college and then headed off to the pros.

You won't find that with Wisconsin and Cornell on Sunday. Each features a late-blooming big guy whose performances likely will decide which team advances to the Sweet 16.

Cornell's Jeff Foote is the rarest of occurrences. He's a legitimate 7-foot, 265-pound banger in the Ivy League, though he took a roundabout way to get there.

Bob Donnan/US PresswireFoote developed into a legitimate force in the post -- he grabbed seven rebounds and scored 16 points against Temple.
Foote -- who grew up about 30 minutes south of Cornell's campus -- shot up from 6-foot-4 to 6-9 in the summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school, then sprouted another two inches before his senior year. Trouble was, he didn't know how to use his newfound height.

"I was very uncoordinated," he said. "Lanky. Awkward. I didn't have a lot of basketball skills."

A guy that tall has to be awfully ungainly to not attract any college interest. Foote was. Cornell coach Steve Donahue scouted Foote during his senior year and took a pass.

"I was sitting with a couple of Division III guys, and he was probably 170 [pounds]," Donahue said. "It was hard to imagine him being a college basketball player at any level."

Foote went to St. Bonaventure on an academic scholarship and walked on to the team, where teammates bullied him in practice. He realized then that he needed to get much stronger to have any future in the game.

While he focused on strength, his mother, Wanda, hatched a plan to get him somewhere better than St. Bonaventure, which is still recovering from the academic scandal that decimated the program earlier this decade. Wanda worked as a nurse at the hospital where injured Cornell player Khaliq Gant was recuperating from two dislocated vertebrae in his neck. She loved how the Big Red players and coaches constantly visited Gant. She wanted her son at a place that cared about each other that much.

Big Red guard Ryan Wittman remembers seeing Foote when he toured the school as a potential transfer. Foote, he said, wore a baggy T-shirt and might have been 205 pounds soaking wet. Point guard Louis Dale didn't think much of Foote after his first practice with the team.

"He couldn't dunk that well," Dale said. "I was like, 'He's seven feet tall and I can't even throw him an alley-oop.'"

But Foote kept developing his game and more importantly, hitting the weight room hard. By last summer, he had bulked up to 265 pounds.

"We'd play pickup games, and all our big guys were complaining about how much stronger he was," Wittman said. "Nobody could guard him, nobody could stop him."

That was the case all year in the Ivy League and even against top competition, as Foote more than held his own against Kansas center Cole Aldrich in January. He had 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in a first-round win over Temple.

His challenge will increase Sunday against Wisconsin's own nontraditional big man, Jon Leuer.

[+] EnlargeJon Leuer
Bob Donnan/US PresswireLeuer had 20 points and eight rebounds against Wofford during the first round of the tournament.
Like Foote, the Orono, Minn., native went through his own rapid vertical surge. Leuer was a 6-foot guard as a high school freshman. By his senior year, he stood 6-10. He handled the change a little more easily than Foote, though.

"I guess I lost some mobility, but at the same time I didn't have growing pains and stuff like that," Leuer said. "It was definitely a transition from being able to play on perimeter to being able to play in the post."

Donahue remembers trying to recruit Leuer to Cornell as a junior in high school, but Leuer became a coveted prospect the next year because of his enhanced height. Still, Leuer came to Wisconsin as a 200-pound string bean and spent much of his first two years hanging out on the wings. He's put on 30 pounds since then and now can play inside as well as out.

That makes him one of the more versatile frontcourt players in the Big Ten, as Leuer maintained his guard skills while gaining a center's body. He showed that in Friday's win over Wofford, knocking down the go-ahead 17-foot jumper with 17 seconds left, then helping poke the ball away from Terriers guard Cameron Rundles on the other end to preserve the victory.

"He's got a unique, diverse skill set," Badgers forward Keaton Nankivil said. "Now it's to the point where he's kind of a terror matchup for anybody he goes against, just because he can do so many different things. He has all the tools to really attack anybody."

Foote says Leuer is "like an Ivy League player, but more skilled." Leuer says he'll need to keep Foote from getting good position down low and using his bulk for easy baskets. Leuer would like to pull Foote outside on defense, but Donahue say Foote is athletic enough to guard the perimeter.

They may be late bloomers, but prospects for both are now booming.
Terrence JenningsBob Donnan/US PresswirePatrick Christopher finished with 17 points and eight rebounds in Cal's win over Louisville.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We take it all back, Pac-10.

Sure, all year we held our noses while looking at your standings. Maybe we scoffed at your lack of marquee wins or ranked teams. We said some things we regret, like you were one of the worst major leagues in recent memory and that you only deserved one NCAA Tournament bid this year.

Our bad.

Clearly, you must still know how to play a little basketball. Washington knocked off Marquette on Thursday, and then here in Jacksonville on Friday night, California stomped Louisville 77-62. That's Marquette and Louisville from the Big East, supposedly the king of all conferences. Before this week, the Pac-10 had scored only one first-round win over the Big East in NCAA tournament play since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

So go ahead. Crow a little bit.

[+] EnlargeJerome Randle
AP Photo/Steve HelberRandle finished with a team-high 21 points.
"I've been listening to a lot of things that have been said about the Pac-10, and honestly I feel like we have great players and great teams," Cal senior guard Jerome Randle said. "Just because we didn't have any Top 25 teams, people were trashing our league. But we were competitive every night. Luckily, Cal and Washington got in, and we were able to send a message in the first round."

Some had wondered if the Bears even deserved to make the field. Despite winning the Pac-10 regular season title and boasting a high RPI, they didn't have any great wins this season. They felt they had something to prove as a No. 8 seed.

"No matter what people were saying about the league, we still felt like it was a tremendous accomplishment to win the conference," forward Theo Robertson said. "We wanted to come out here and show the nation, really, that we're a good basketball team."

It didn't take Louisville long to find that out. The Bears opened with a blitzkrieg, scoring the game's first 12 points and racing out to leads of 22-4 and 30-12.

"I was a little upset that Obama didn't put us in his bracketology," Randle joked, referring to the president's own Pac-10 doubting picks. "So I just wanted to come out strong."

What Cal lacked in big bodies and physical play -- a strength of the purportedly superior Big East -- it more than made up for with speed and shooting. When the Cardinals tried to press, Randle zipped right by them. When Louisville made two serious runs to get within striking distance, Randle, Robertson and Patrick Christopher made key shots to keep the lead afloat.

"Just bang, bang, bang," coach Mike Montgomery said. "We shot the ball and probably caught them off guard, which we do occasionally."

Montgomery doesn't have a deep team, and his bench was shorter than normal after the suspension of starting forward Omondi Amoke. Randle played all 40 minutes, while Robertson and Christopher logged 38 minutes each against Louisville's constant full-court pressure defense. Yet it was Cal that ended the game on a 12-2 run over the final six minutes.

The small rotation and lack of size figures to be a factor against top-seeded Duke on Sunday. But the Bears are still carrying the Pac-10 banner.

"Now we want to prove to people that we are capable of wining more than one game," Randle said.

We promise not to doubt you anymore, Pac-10. Can we be friends again?

Final: Cal 77, Louisville 62

March, 20, 2010
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- To say California vs. Louisville was a game of runs is like saying the ocean has a few waves.

The Bears opened the game with a 22-4 lead, then saw Louisville get it back to single digits late in the first half. After Cal built a 14-point edge in the second half, the Cardinals stormed back to get within four points with seven minutes left.

But Cal had the last run and the last laugh, advancing to play Duke on Sunday with a 77-62 win.

The end came for Louisville when the Cardinals were called for an intentional foul with 2:43 left after coach Rick Pitino yelled for his team to foul. Pitino argued and was slapped with a technical, giving California four free throws and the ball.

Really, though, the Bears won with their outside shooting. Every time Louisville got close, a Cal shooter would hit a big jumper. Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher combined to make all eight of the team's 3-pointers and scored 59 points together.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, got very little from their backcourt outside of Edgar Sosa. Starting guards Jerry Smith and Reginald Delk and top reserve Preston Knowles were a combined 3-for-17 from the floor.

Halftime: Cal 41, Louisville 30

March, 19, 2010
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quick halftime thoughts from the final game of the day here at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, where No. 8 seed Cal leads No. 9 Louisville 41-30:

  • The start of the game was delayed by 20 minutes as arena workers fixed a malfunctioning clock above one of the baskets. The teams retreated to the locker room while the work was performed, and Louisville might as well not have even come out for the first six minutes of the game.
  • Cal scored the first 12 points and held a bloated 22-4 lead after an intentional foul on Terrence Jennings resulted in a five-point trip. The start resembled the blowout runs Rick Pitino's old Kentucky teams used to put on tournament opponents, but the other way around. Patrick Christopher hit three 3-pointers early and finished the half with 13 points
  • The Cardinals, though, didn't fold. They used a 12-0 run midway through the half to get back in it as the Bears started to get sloppy with the ball. The lead shrank to six points late in the half, but Jerome Randle's 35-foot buzzer-beater put Cal back on top by 11 points and could be a huge momentum changer.
  • Rick Pitino rolled the dice and let point guard Edgar Sosa play with two fouls in the first half. Sosa picked up his third foul on a charge with a little more than five minutes to go. Pitino has shown little faith in freshman Peyton Siva, so the point guard situation is one to watch in the second half.
  • Louisville's press didn't seem to bother Cal much as the Bears used their quickness to break it several times for easy scores. But Mike Montgomery's team isn't very deep with the suspension of starting forward Omondi Amoke, and all five starters played at least 17 minutes in the first half. Can they avoid fatigue and hang on to this lead?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The start of the final game here in Jacksonville is delayed as arena officials try to fix the clock above one of the baskets.

The game was scheduled to start at 10 p.m. Louisville and Cal just headed back to their locker rooms as arena workers brought out a ladder to inspect the malfunctioning clock.

Cal's body clocks are on West Coast time, so they probably don't mind the delay. Writers for newspapers with East Coast deadlines are sweating it out, however.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The tape around the Duke mascot's head said it all: "Played In. Blown Out."

Arkansas-Pine Bluff exits its first NCAA tournament with a victory to its name in the play-in, er, opening-round game. But the Golden Lions found out the difference between taking on a fellow opening-rounder and facing a top seed like Duke, which sailed to a 73-44 win.

The Blue Devils still must prove they can make it beyond the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004 and that they deserved what looks like a cushy path through the South Regional. In their 2010 tournament debut, though they did what No. 1 seeds are supposed to do to No. 16s: step on their throats and never let them come up for air.

About the only drama to be found was which Plumlee would score the most for Duke in garbage time (Answer: Miles, 6-2 over Mason). The Blue Devils' 29-point margin of victory matched Kentucky's for the biggest win in the first round so far. Kyle Singler led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a showcase of efficiency.

Mike Krzyzewski didn't have to spend much time working the refs. He stayed in his seat most of the second half, watching his team steadily expand its 19-point first-half lead. He called it a "workmanlike performance" by the Blue Devils.

"I thought we handled both halves really well," he said. "We knew that they would be even looser in the second half because we had a 19point lead, so you wanted to make sure you run shooters closer because there's not going to be any kind of game pressure on.

"We didn't rush things. Actually I thought we kind of played offense a little bit better in the second half, like Kyle looked for his shot instead of trying to look for something in between."

The road will get tougher for Duke. But the first part of its journey was a cruise.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quick impressions from the first half between No.1 seed Duke and No. 16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff:

  • Can't say there have been any real surprises so far. Duke is superior in every phase of the game and has methodically asserted its will. The underdog Golden Lions weren't a good shooting team all year, and they've connected on just 24 percent of their attempts in the first half. I don't see anything to suggest that this game will get considerably closer in the final 20 minutes.
  • Duke has already shot 20 free throws as it continues to pound the ball inside and get hacked. The Blue Devils are owning the backboard, too, with a 22-12 edge.
  • One difference between these two programs must be the conditioning staff. Sculpted might not be the first word you think of when discussing Duke players, but they look like Olympians compared to Pine Bluff's guys.
  • Brian Zoubek is really big, and he nearly crashed into me while chasing a ball out of bounds. Had his momentum carried him a couple more feet, I might not be here to type this.

Bob Donnan/US PRESSWIREWisconsin Badgers guard Trevon Hughes teamed up with Jon Leuer to give the Badgers a fierce 1-2 punch in a 53-49 win over Wofford.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With just one look from teammate Trevon Hughes, Jon Leuer knew what was coming.

Wisconsin had the ball, trailing Wofford by a point with the clock dwindling under 30 seconds. Leuer flashed out high, ready to set a ball screen for Hughes. But Hughes told him to "go flat," meaning head to the baseline. And that's when the two made eye contact.

"I knew then that if my guy came off, he was going to find me," Leuer said.

That's how it happened, too. Hughes drove into the lane, drawing a double team that left Leuer open in the corner. Hughes delivered the pass, and Leuer drilled a 17-foot jumper with 17 seconds left as the fourth-seeded Badgers held off No. 13 seed Wofford 53-49.

The two-man game worked all day for Wisconsin. Leuer had 20 points and Hughes scored 19, with the rest of the team adding only 14. But if the Badgers want to win more than one game in this tournament, they'll need more than just a pair of contributors.

Continuing a troubling trend that started in the Big Ten tournament loss to Illinois, Wisconsin struggled to get anybody other than Leuer and Hughes going. They combined to go 14-for-29 against Wofford while the rest of the team shot just 6-for-35. Against the Illini, the supporting cast was only 9-of-34 from the field. Third leading scorer Jason Bohannon is mired in an awful slump. He missed all four of his shots against Wofford and is 2-for-20 in his last three games.

"People game plan to not give up the three and that's his game," Hughes said of his backcourt mate. "He's going to come around, and I feel sorry for whatever team we play when he does."

Maybe, but until then the Badgers are living on the edge. If Wofford had made more than one of its seven second-half free throws, or if the Terriers' Cameron Rundles hadn't lost the ball out of bounds with 4.9 seconds left, Wisconsin might already be done. Hughes acknowledged that his team has to play a whole lot better against Cornell on Sunday.

This was a weird game in a lot of ways. Wofford couldn't make a shot most of the first half, and then it couldn't miss. The much smaller Terriers outrebounded Wisconsin 37-30. The Badgers had only four turnovers, but only dished out three assists.

"Sometimes it doesn't always go as scripted," Leuer said.

Luckily for he and his teammates, the most important play of the game developed just as he thought it would.

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