Sunday, March 28, 2010

Final Four is set. Michigan St, Duke, Butler, and West Virginia all invited

San Antonio punishes the Celtics in Beantown

BOSTON -- The San Antonio Spurs are in the thick of the playoff race again after getting back one of the key players from their championship teams.

He was sitting on their bench the whole time.

Making his 12th straight start since Tony Parker went out with a broken right hand, Manu Ginobili scored 28 points and added seven assists to lead San Antonio to a 94-73 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday night and help the Spurs jump from a precarious eighth place in the Western Conference into a tie for sixth

"Manu's been playing great for the last month. He's basically taken over the team," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's been the same Manu we've had when we won championships. Without Tony, it's really important for somebody to step up, and he's done it."

Richard Jefferson had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Tim Duncan had eight points and nine boards, and DeJuan Blair had 10 of his 11 rebounds in the fourth quarter. The Spurs, who started the season 4-6 and a month ago lost 11 of 18 games, have now won 12 of 16 to move into a three-way tie with Portland and Oklahoma City for sixth place in the West.

"We had a very, very slow start to the season, and we are paying for it now," Ginobili said. "We should be five wins ahead of where we are."

The Spurs have won back-to-back games against the Cavaliers and Celtics; their only losses in the last month were to Cleveland, Atlanta, Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers. They next go to New Jersey to play the nine-win Nets on Monday night.

"It's not going to count unless we finish strong," Ginobili said.

Paul Pierce scored 18 points and Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which had won six of its last seven -- and seven of eight at home -- to seemingly erase concerns that the 2008 NBA champions had aged too quickly. Instead, the Celtics posted their lowest point total of the season, their worst home loss of the year and their third loss by 20 or more since Feb. 25.

"This does not change our progress," said Ray Allen, who scored seven points on 2-for-9 shooting. "You trip up a little here, but it doesn't change the mission we're on or the direction we're heading."

Ginobili was a starter when the Spurs won the 2005 NBA title, and for their '03 and '07 championships he was one of the league's top reserves. He was coming off the bench this year until Parker broke his right hand on March 6; since replacing him, Ginobili has averaged 24 points per game.

He had 16 points at the half and eight more in the third quarter, when he hit a running, one-handed, 25-foot bank shot at the buzzer to give the Spurs a 77-60 lead.

"It was one of those nights we were awful," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Ginobili dominated this game. He single-handedly was the will of the game."

The Celtics trailed just 44-43 at midgame, but the Spurs scored the first 12 points of the second half and led by as many as 17 in the third quarter.

With seven minutes left in the game, the home crowd was booing the Celtics -- an unusually common occurrence lately -- and with five minutes left the building was mostly empty. Rivers emptied his bench with four minutes to play, and Popovich followed soon after.

The game got rough at times -- at least for the Celtics.

Garnett hit the floor hard after Ginobili blocked his shot in the second quarter. The Celtics forward landed on his back, but he soon got up and held his fingers to his ears to encourage the crowd to cheer.

In the third, Pierce went to the floor after he was fouled driving the lane. He stayed down for a while before getting up and rubbing his right shoulder while wincing in pain.

He was able to shoot the free throws, but he missed the first, and a minute later he was on the bench talking to the medical staff again.

But he played a team-high 37 minutes and said afterward he was fine.

Associated Press

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Arenas very fortunate, Only gets probation

WASHINGTON -- Suspended Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas was ordered Friday to spend 30 days in a halfway house for his conviction on gun charges stemming from a locker-room confrontation with a teammate.

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin also sentenced Arenas to 400 hours of community service, which cannot be conducted at basketball clinics, and a $5,000 fine.

Arenas apologized in court, saying, "Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen."

Arenas pleaded guilty to violating the city's gun laws in a Dec. 21 incident at Verizon Center. Following an argument over an unpaid gambling debt totaling a few hundred dollars, Arenas brought several guns to the team locker room and set them near Javaris Crittenton's locker with a sign telling him to "PICK 1."

"The evidence is that both of you felt disrespected," Morin told Arenas. "Rather than acting like mature adults, you escalated the incident" by bringing guns to practice.

After sentencing, Arenas' lawyer, Ken Wainstein, said he was pleased with the outcome.

"Judge Morin's decision was fair and measured; it reflected a deep understanding of the relevant facts ... Mr. Arenas is grateful to the court and looks forward to serving the community and once again being a force for good in the District of Columbia," Wainstein said in a statement.

In court papers, prosecutors said Crittenton had a legitimate reason to believe Arenas' threat was genuine.

Prosecutors wanted Arenas to go to jail for at least three months. They said he lied repeatedly about why the guns were in the locker room and tried to cover up what had happened. They also said he knew bringing guns into D.C. was illegal and has a prior gun conviction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh wrote in court papers that "if any other individual -- without the fame, power, and the wealth of this defendant -- brought four firearms into Washington, D.C., for the purpose of a similar confrontation," they would surely go to jail.

Arenas' lawyers sought probation and community service, arguing the incident was a misguided prank with no intention to harm anyone. They pointed out that the guns were unloaded, that Arenas' lighthearted comments about the incident were misinterpreted, and that he's a good role model who excelled at community service.

Gilbert Arenas timeline
Dec. 19: Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton argue over a card game and exchange threats as team flies home from a road game.

Dec. 21: Arenas brings his guns to locker room and puts them in a chair by Crittenton's locker with a sign saying, "Pick 1." Crittenton retrieves his own gun and shows it to Arenas.

Jan. 6: NBA suspends Arenas without pay, effective immediately. NBA commissioner David Stern: "Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game."

Jan. 15: Arenas pleads guilty in court. Ken Wainstein, Arenas' attorney, said: "[Arenas] pled guilty to a charge of carrying a pistol in the District of Columbia without a license. He accepted full responsibility for his actions, acknowledged that those actions were wrong and against the law, and has apologized to all who have been affected by his conduct."

Jan. 27: NBA suspends Arenas (and Crittenton) for remainder of season. From the Wizards: "Their poor judgment has also violated the trust of our fans and stands in contrast to everything [late owner] Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life. It is widely known that Mr. Pollin took the extraordinary step of changing the team name from 'Bullets' to 'Wizards' in 1997 precisely to express his abhorrence of gun violence in our community."

March 23: Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh recommends three-month jail term, followed by three years of probation and 300 hours of community service.

March 26: Arenas sentenced in D.C. Superior Court to two years probation, which includes 30 days in halfway house and 400 hours of community service. He is also required to register as a gun offender and donate $5,000 to fund for victims of violent crimes.

"This sad saga has sent a strong message to any and all who might consider bringing guns into the district," defense attorneys wrote.

Arenas disputed claims by prosecutors that he did not take the incident seriously. He specifically referred to his gunslinging pantomime during a pregame warm-up in Philadelphia while the crime was under investigation.

"For everybody else, I'm taking it lightly," he said, referring to a widely circulated photo of him goofing around during the warm-up. "I'm looking at picture where 14 or 15 guys are laughing together for the last time," he said, his voice breaking.

Arenas' sentence could determine whether the Wizards will attempt to void the remainder of his six-year, $111 million contract, although the players' union has vowed to fight such a move.

Regardless, Arenas' misdeed has helped contribute to the precipitous decline of a franchise, which is headed for its second consecutive last-place finish after years of regularly reaching the playoffs.

The Wizards did not address Arenas' future with the team in a statement later Friday.

"We believe today's sentencing of Gilbert Arenas can help bring closure to the unfortunate situation that has played out over the last three months," said the statement issued by president Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family that owns the team.

"Gilbert has admitted his mistakes and will now pay his debt to our community ... we now look forward to moving on and focusing on building this team into the contender that our outstanding fans deserve."

Wizards coach Flip Saunders agreed that Arenas' sentencing will "put a little closure" on this saga.

"In the conversation I've had with him I think he's aware that he did something that was very stupid," Saunders said. "He was aware there was going to be some type of consequences.

"He'll probably start doing some stuff come summer time that he needs to from an in-shape standpoint."

Saunders hopes this will allow the team to move forward. Teammate Mike Miller says he's happy Arenas won't be going to jail and believes he'll make the most of his opportunity to play again next season.

Added guard Randy Foye: "Everyone across the world knows he made a mistake. The biggest thing now is trying to make sure the younger kids and little kids don't do the same thing, don't make the same mistakes he has made."

The maximum term for Arenas' crime is five years. Sentencing guidelines for someone with his record call for six months to two years, although those guidelines also allow for probation.

There has been little dispute about the facts of the case.

Arenas and Crittenton had argued over a card game and exchanged threats while the team flew home from a road game Dec. 19. Two days later, Arenas brought his guns to the locker room. Crittenton then retrieved his own gun and showed it to Arenas.

Crittenton pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor gun charge and received a year of unsupervised probation.

Arenas entered his guilty plea Jan. 15.

In sentencing Arenas, Morin said he took into account the fact that Crittenton received only probation and his belief that Arenas was remorseful.

Associated Press

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mcnabb on the trading block, Say it aint so

PHILADELPHIA -- Teams interested in acquiring Donovan McNabb will have to part with a high draft pick to get him.

A person familiar with trade discussions involving McNabb told The Associated Press the Philadelphia Eagles will only consider a deal for the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback if it includes a pick among the top 42 in next month's NFL draft.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Thursday because the team doesn't comment on potential trades.

After months of saying McNabb would return for another year, Eagles coach Andy Reid acknowledged Wednesday he was listening to offers for McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick.

McNabb, who doesn't retain a no-trade clause but does hold the power to decline contract offers, would prefer the Minnesota Vikings if he were traded, according to a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which cited sources close to the situation.

But the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams are considered to be most interested in McNabb. Each team has two picks in the top 42.

It's unlikely any of those teams would give up a first-round pick for McNabb. The Rams have the first overall selection, the Raiders pick eighth and the Bills are ninth. In the second round, however, the Rams have the 33rd pick, Raiders are 39th and Bills are 41st.

The Vikings are awaiting Brett Favre's decision on a return, a commitment that could come as late as midsummer, which would likely be too long to wait for the Eagles.

The Raiders are considered the front-runner for McNabb if a deal is made. It's still possible the Eagles would accept a pick outside the top 42 if a team sweetened the offer with other picks and/or players.

McNabb is expendable because he's entering the final season of his contract and Kolb is considered the quarterback of the future. The 33-year-old McNabb has led Philadelphia to five NFC Championship Games in 11 seasons, winning one NFC title.

McNabb had an outstanding season last year until the final two games -- consecutive losses at Dallas. The first loss to the Cowboys cost the Eagles the NFC East title.

Associated Press

Star Running back stabbed to death in Florida

Only hours after FIU running back Kendall Berry was stabbed to death on the school's Miami campus, the university president said in a video message that officials "will not rest" until his attacker is found.

"Our hearts are heavy," FIU president Mark B. Rosenberg said Friday.

Berry was stabbed late Thursday night, after Miami-Dade police said the 22-year-old junior from Haines City, Fla., was involved in an argument with one or possibly more individuals outside the front doors of the school's rec center -- one of the spots where the football team trains.

A person was "detained and questioned" but was released and "is not a currently a suspect," Detective Aida Fina-Milian said Friday morning.

FIU opened as scheduled Friday morning, with increased security for students and grief counseling available. Students living in residence halls were advised to keep doors locked, and any person at the university could be escorted around campus if desired.

Members of the FIU football team were already receiving counseling, and a football coaching clinic scheduled for Friday and Saturday has been indefinitely postponed.

Spring football practices have been postponed. No final decision has been made about when to hold the program's annual spring game, which for now remains scheduled for Wednesday.

"In our sorrow, we must come together," Rosenberg said in his message to the university community. "Our campus is safe. Now more than ever, you must tell this story. ... Even while we mourn Kendall and express our sympathy to his family and friends, we must not let this heinous crime overshadow the incredible track record for safety that we have."

Other than the university statement, FIU's athletic department did not have an immediate comment.

Television images showed several students, including some identified as FIU athletes, hugging and crying Thursday night near the spot where the stabbing took place, shortly before the university released official confirmation that Berry died from his injuries. One student dropped to her knees in grief just inside the doorway, screaming.

"You wouldn't expect a situation like this would happen to a guy like that," FIU student Luis Vasquez told CBS affiliate WFOR.

Berry had 164 all-purpose yards in limited use as a freshman in 2007, appearing in all 12 FIU games that season. He sat out the 2008 season with a knee injury and then had some breakout moments in 2009, rushing for three touchdowns in a span of 13 minutes against Middle Tennessee on Nov. 7 and following that up with two more scores the following week in a win over North Texas.

Berry had seven brothers and sisters, the university said. A memorial service is being scheduled, Rosenberg said.

"Last night, we lost a well-liked student who was a tireless worker in the classroom and on the ball field," Rosenberg said. "Like so many of our students, Kendall Berry had positive energy and a bright future. Last night, his grief-stricken mother described Kendall as a negotiator, not a fighter. We will not rest until the perpetrator of this crime is brought to justice."

Berry finished last season with a team-best seven touchdowns, despite not playing in the season's first seven games because of continued rehab from the knee injury.

"When you put the football in his hands, that kid can do some unbelievable things," FIU football coach Mario Cristobal said late last season of Berry.

FIU officials said they did not recall another killing on the school's campus.

Associated Press

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plenty of upsets in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament

Mauer gets Paid. For real !

The Twins' hometown kid is staying anchored to home.

All-Star catcher Joe Mauer and Minnesota completed an eight-year, $184 million deal, a contract which will inevitably be hailed within baseball as an example that teams like the Twins do have a chance to keep their homegrown talent.

The deal, which includes a full no-trade clause, ranks in scope with only Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million contract and Derek Jeter's 10-year, $189 million contract.

Mauer is generally regarded as the American League's best player and may be baseball's most coveted player, given his unique set of skills. Mauer, who turns 27 next month, already has won three batting titles and two Gold Glove Awards, and last year, he began to hit for power, posting a 1.031 OPS.

If Mauer had become a free agent in the fall, he probably would have been the most coveted free agent since Rodriguez reached free agency after the 2000 season. With the use of total free-agent leverage, Mauer might have commanded a deal for something in the range of $250 million in the fall.

But all along, Mauer -- taken by the Twins' No. 1 overall in the same year that Mark Prior was eligible for the draft -- indicated a desire to remain with the Twins in his hometown of St. Paul surrounded by family and friends. Barring a last-minute hold-up, it appears that he will play his entire career for the Twins.

The Twins' signing of Mauer to a long-term deal is going to be viewed as a strong development for Major League Baseball, at a time when there are growing concerns about the disparity between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, and teams that generate less revenue like the Rays, Athletics and Twins.

A major challenge for the Twins -- who have evolved from a small-market team into a club with a mid-range budget -- will be how they can compete while paying one player such a high percentage of their payroll. The Rockies made a similar investment in Todd Helton during the last decade, and while Helton has performed well during the course of the contract, his high salary restricted Colorado from making other moves.

Associated Press

Tiger reveals where he is at this point of his rehabilitation and looks forward to the Masters

Tiger Woods took questions from reporters for the first time in four months Sunday, saying "I've done some pretty bad things in my life" and that he doesn't know what kind of reception he'll get when he returns to competitive golf at the Masters.

"I'm a little nervous about that to be honest with you," Woods told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi, who asked him what he expects when he returns to golf on April 8 following an auto accident which led to an indefinite leave from professional golf and an admission of multiple affairs. "It would be nice to hear a couple claps here and there."

Woods hasn't been questioned by reporters since he was involved in a one-car crash outside his Florida home in the early-morning hours of Nov. 27. He declined to answer questions about the specifics of the accident ("You know it's all in the police report," he said. "Beyond that everything's between [wife] Elin and myself and that's private.") and specifics about his infidelity, though he did tell Rinaldi that "just one is enough ... and obviously that wasn't the case."

After his auto accident, Woods eventually admitted to infidelity and said Dec. 11 he would take an "indefinite break" from golf. Woods spoke publicly for the first time Feb. 19, when he confessed to cheating on his wife. But he didn't take any questions after his 13-plus-minute statement.

"I hurt a lot of people, not just my wife," he told Rinaldi on Sunday. "My friends, my colleagues, the public, kids who looked up to me. There were a lot of people that thought I was a different person and my actions were not according to that. That's why I had to apologize. I was so sorry for what I had done."

He was in a Mississippi clinic from Dec. 31 until Feb. 11, then went to an Arizona clinic for a week of family counseling after his Feb. 19 statement.

He didn't say what he was in treatment for, but did say "It was really tough to look at yourself in a light you never want to look at yourself, that's pretty brutal."

Woods denied that any of his associates were involved in his off-the-course affairs. "It was all me," he told The Golf Channel. "I'm the one who did it. I'm the one who acted the way I acted. No one knew what was going on when it was going on.

"I'm sure if more people would have known in my inner circle, they would have stopped it or tried to put a stop to it. But I kept it all to myself," he said.

Woods told ESPN's Rinaldi that he didn't seek addiction treatment sooner because "I didn't know I was that bad." He said he married Elin in 2004 "because I loved her" and that his wife was "shocked," "hurt," and "angry" when he told her of his actions.

He called telling his wife and his mother among his lowest points.

"I hurt them the most," he said. "Those are the two people in my life who I'm closest to and to say the things that I've done, truthfully to them [was] very painful."

In his interview with The Golf Channel, Woods talked about his father, Earl, who died in 2006.

"He'd be very disappointed in me," Woods said. "We'd have numerous long talks and that's one of the things I miss," Woods said. "I wish I could have had his guidance through all this, to have him help straighten me up. I know he would have done it."

He also told The Golf Channel that he will eventually talk to his children about what has transpired in his life.

Asked how well the world knows him, Woods told ESPN's Rinaldi: "A lot better now. I was living a life of a lie, I really was. And I was doing a lot of things, like I said, that hurt a lot of people. And stripping away denial and rationalization you start coming to the truth of who you really are and that can be very ugly.

"But then again, when you face it and you start conquering it and you start living up to it, the strength that I feel now," he said, "... I've never felt that type of strength."

Woods returned to practice when he got home from Arizona. Swing coach Hank Haney joined him last week. Woods announced on March 16 that he would return at the Masters, a tournament he has won four times (most recently in 2005).

Woods, who will have been idle for 144 days, said he is ready to return to golf.

"I'm excited to get back and play, I'm excited to get to see the guys again," he said. "I really miss a lot of my friends out there. I miss competing. But still, I still have a lot more treatment to do, and just because I'm playing, doesn't mean I'm [going to] stop going to treatment."

Woods last played on the PGA Tour in the Tour Championship on Sept. 28, 2009, where he finished second. Woods won the Australian Masters in Melbourne on Nov. 15 for his 82nd worldwide victory.

Jim Furyk, who won the rain-delayed Transitions Championship on Sunday, was given a transcript of Woods' comments as he walked in to address the media. Woods' interview was shown at about the time he was finishing off his win (which came 90 minutes after the scheduled finish of the Transitions event).

"I wish him well," Furyk said. "...I think it's good for him to get his face out there and have people see him. They are going to make their judgments, but I think it allows him to kind of move on and get focused for the next thing."

CBS was offered a chance to interview Woods, but declined because of the five-minute time limit restriction. CBS Sports spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade told The Associated Press that CBS would be interested in an extended interview with Woods "without any restrictions."

Associated Press

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Final Four Picks

Jordan finally gets his dream, becomes majority owner of the Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan became a basketball star at North Carolina. Now he'll try to turn around the state's money-losing NBA team by becoming the first ex-player to be a majority owner in the league.

The NBA's Board of Governors on Wednesday unanimously approved Jordan's $275 million bid to buy the Charlotte Bobcats from Bob Johnson. Jordan will take over the team immediately after serving as a minority investor with the final say on basketball decisions since 2006.

"Purchasing the Bobcats is the culmination of my post-playing career goal of becoming the majority owner of an NBA franchise," Jordan said in a statement. "I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to build a winning team in my home state of North Carolina.

"I plan to make this franchise an organization that Charlotte can be proud of, and I am committed to doing all that I can to achieve this goal."

The six-time NBA champion and five-time league MVP will be charged with turning around the fortunes of the 6-year-old Bobcats, who are on pace to lose about $30 million this season because of sluggish ticket and sponsorship sales.

The 47-year-old Jordan, who will assume about $150 million in debt in the deal, becomes the second black majority owner of a major pro sports team. He replaces the first in Johnson, who paid $300 million for the expansion franchise, but lost tens of millions annually and saw the value of the team decline as Charlotte fans struggled to warm to the NBA again after the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002.

"The best decision I made since acquiring the Bobcats was to convince my friend Michael to become an investor in the Bobcats and to appoint him as managing member of basketball operations," Johnson said in a statement. "As the new majority owner of the Bobcats, his dedication will be stronger now more than ever."

Commissioner David Stern predicted last week the deal would be approved easily by the league's owners. Stern said last week that background and financial checks on Jordan produced nothing that would stop the deal, and expressed optimism Jordan's iconic status in this area will boost the franchise.

Jordan grew up in Wilmington, N.C., and led North Carolina to an NCAA title with a last-second shot before starring with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan briefly ran the Wizards basketball operations and returned as a player with Washington before being fired from his management role in 2003.

"We are pleased that Michael Jordan's purchase of majority ownership of the Bobcats was approved by the NBA's Board of Governors and closed in such a smooth and expeditious fashion," Stern said. "We look forward to the continued growth of the Bobcats, on and off the court, under his leadership."

The Bobcats (34-32) entered Wednesday's home game against Oklahoma City in sixth place in the Eastern Conference as they eye their first playoff berth. Team officials hope a playoff appearance after Jordan took control would boost interest and ticket sales in the franchise, which plays in a 5-year-old downtown arena.

"While there is still plenty of work to do both on and off the floor, our attendance, television ratings, corporate support and on-court performance are headed in the right direction," Bobcats president Fred Whitfield said. "That trend will only continue as Michael transitions into all facets of our business."

Jordan, who has declined interview requests since striking a deal to buy the team on Feb. 26, is scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday night.

Associated Press

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tiger will come back to golf at the Masters

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP)—Tiger Woods said Tuesday he will return to golf next month at the Masters, ending a four-month hiatus brought on by a sex scandal that shattered his image as the gold standard in sports.

“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect,” Woods said in a statement. “After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta.”

The Associated Press first reported his plans to return at Augusta National last Thursday.

Woods has not competed since Nov. 15 when he won the Australian Masters for his 82nd victory worldwide. Twelve days later, he crashed his car into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife.

“The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been a while since I last played,” Woods said.

“I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment,” he said. “Although I’m returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.”

There had been reports he would play the Tavistock Cup exhibition next week in Orlando, followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he is the defending champion and a six-time winner.

“When I finally got into a position to think about competitive golf again, it became apparent to me that the Masters would be the earliest I could play,” Woods said.

Already the major with the highest TV ratings, this Masters could be the biggest yet. The first two rounds are televised on ESPN, with CBS Sports on the weekend.

“Obviously, the ratings will be off the chart,” Heath Slocum said. “It will be interesting to watch—not only the reaction from him, but from the fans, the media, the players. I would venture to say he might be nervous.”

Woods twice has come into a major after a long layoff without playing, with mixed results—he missed the cut at Winged Foot for the 2006 U.S. Open after his father died, and he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines while playing on a shattered left knee.

Woods is a four-time Masters champion, although he has not won at Augusta National since 2005, his longest drought there.

In some respects, the Masters makes sense for golf’s No. 1 player to return. Media credentials are limited regardless of who’s playing or what’s in the news, and Augusta National has more control of its tickets than any other golf tournament.

Those with season badges risk losing them if they violate policies, or are caught selling them.

Woods has been the biggest draw at the Masters ever since he became its youngest champion at 21 in 1997, when he broke the tournament scoring record with a 12-shot victory.

That likely won’t compare to this year.

Woods’ world came crashing down on Nov. 27 when he fled his house in the middle of the night and ran his Cadillac SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree. About that time, allegations of womanizing began to emerge, and Woods’ silence was replaced by rumors of what happened that night and how, as the world’s most famous athlete, he could keep so many affairs a secret.

He eventually confessed to infidelity and said Dec. 11 he would take an “indefinite break” from golf. Woods spoke publicly for the first time on Feb. 19 at TPC Sawgrass, where he confessed to cheating on his wife, Elin.

“I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did,” Woods said that day.

He was in a Mississippi clinic from Dec. 31 until Feb. 11, then went to an Arizona clinic for a week of family counseling. He returned to practice when he got home to Isleworth, and swing coach Hank Haney joined him last week.

This will be the first time Woods won’t play Bay Hill, the only regular PGA Tour event he has never missed as a professional.

Meantime, the governing body of golf outside the United States said it hoped Woods would play at the British Open in July.

“We’re pleased to hear that Tiger is to return to golf. … Golf needs the world No. 1 to be playing,” Royal & Ancient spokesman Malcolm Booth said.

Woods has not yet entered to play at the British Open at St. Andrews, but has until May 27 to send in his entry form. Booth says it’s “normal that he hasn’t” entered yet.

Associated Press

Lakers squeak by Golden st. in west coast shootout

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Kobe Bryant(notes) is happy to be done with the Golden State Warriors so the Los Angeles Lakers can prepare for what they might actually see come playoff time next month.

Bryant scored 29 points and the Lakers dominated the boards to overcome a turnover-plagued night and beat the Warriors for the ninth straight time, 124-121 on Monday night.

Bryant said there was nothing to learn from a game where the Lakers committed 24 turnovers, outrebounded Golden State 56-25 and allowed 100 shots before holding on at the end for the victory.

Pau Gasol(notes) scored 26 points, Andrew Bynum(notes) added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Lamar Odom(notes) had 17 points and 12 boards for the Lakers, who have won three straight following their first three-game losing streak in more than two years.

The Lakers led by 11 late in the fourth quarter but barely held on for the victory. It wasn’t sealed until Stephen Curry(notes) and Monta Ellis(notes) missed 3-pointers in the final seconds. Ellis’ last-ditch attempt bounced on the rim three times before falling aside at the buzzer, completing a 5-for-23 night.

“I thought it was going in,” Warriors center Chris Hunter(notes) said. “It looked like the invisible man tipped it away at the last second.”

Curry scored 29 points for the Warriors, who have lost seven of eight. Coach Don Nelson remained six wins shy of breaking Lenny Wilkens’ record mark of 1,337. The Warriors have only 16 games remaining this season, meaning Nelson’s quest for the record might be pushed into next season if he is brought back as coach.

The Lakers took advantage of their decided height advantage with two 7-footers in the starting lineup against a Warriors team whose only true post player is Hunter, a former NBA Development League player.

But with a season-high nine turnovers by Bryant and eight more from Bynum, the Lakers struggled to put away the quicker Warriors.

“It was weird,” forward Ron Artest(notes) said. “It was definitely weird. Twenty-something turnovers, that should not happen. A lot of them were unforced, a lot of mental errors. We knew we could win but we slipped up.”

It was the fourth sellout of the season for the Warriors, but many of the season-high 20,038 fans were there to cheer on the Lakers instead of the home team. Positive plays by Los Angeles were often greeted with louder applause than those by the Warriors and some fans started an “M-V-P!” chant for Bryant.

The Lakers fell behind 72-63 early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Curry. But they answered with a 16-2 run that gave them a 79-74 lead and they never gave it up the rest of the way.

Curry’s 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter got the deficit back down to one, but Bynum responded with a three-point play following an offensive rebound. Bryant’s three-point play extended the lead to 111-103 with just under 5 minutes left.

The Warriors got the lead back down to two on a jumper by Ellis with about 20 seconds left, but Shannon Brown(notes) hit two free throws with 13 seconds to go to build the lead back to 123-119. After another basket by Ellis, Bryant made one of two free throws with 8.6 seconds left for the final margin.

“You’re going to have that kind of game when you play the Warriors,” coach Phil Jackson said. “They go for speed and quickness. Did you see the turnovers? That helped them get 100 shots. … It was really difficult for us. It put us in jeopardy.”

Hunter scored a career-high 22 points and Corey Maggette(notes) added 18. Ellis was held to 13 in one of the worst shooting games of his career.

“I’m a shooter,” Ellis said. “I’m a shooter until Coach tells me not to shoot anymore. Nothing else I can do.”

Los Angeles led 39-32 after a first quarter that was filled with statistical oddities. The Lakers made six straight shots to open the game, then missed six in a row before making eight in row. The Warriors, meanwhile, got little production from their high-scoring backcourt of Curry and Ellis, who shot just 1 for 10 in the period. But the frontcourt players made all 11 shots they took, including three 3-pointers from Anthony Tolliver(notes).

C.J. Watson(notes) and Hunter then combined for all the points in an 11-2 run to end the half for Golden State and give the Warriors a 65-59 lead at the break.

NOTES: Bryant had his most turnovers since a career-high 11 at Detroit on Jan. 31, 2008. … The Warriors were only the fifth team to take at least 100 shots in a regulation game this season. … Golden State’s five turnovers were its fewest since also having five against Milwaukee on March 30, 2005.

Associated Press

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cavs prove they are the team to beat in the East, pound Boston at home

CLEVELAND (AP)—Leon Powe(notes) has seen the Boston Celtics at their best. They aren’t there anymore.

After coming off the bench and helping the Cleveland Cavaliers put away the Celtics 104-93 on Sunday, Powe, who won an NBA title with Boston in 2008, took a moment to reflect on his former team, a squad showing signs of age and perhaps vulnerability.

“Looking at the defense from the championship year, when we won it, it doesn’t look the same,” Powe said. “It looks like the rotation is slower and they ain’t getting to the shooters and closing out like they did before. I don’t know if it’s effort or maybe they’re a little older.The Celtics looked it.

LeBron James(notes) scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half and the Cavs wore down the Celtics for their second decisive win over one of the East’s premier teams in less than a month.

The Cavaliers were closer to full strength with the return of forward Antawn Jamison(notes), who had 15 points and 12 rebounds after missing one game with a sore knee. Anderson Varejao(notes) had 17 points, 10 boards and drove the Celtics crazy with his nonstop hustle.

“I thought one guy completely dominated the game and that was Varejao,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Loose balls, activity, getting under our skin, he’s doing what he should do. That was very frustrating. He was so active. He moved his feet and we didn’t.”

Last month, the Cavs beat the Celtics by 20 in Boston. In that game, Cleveland center Shaquille O’Neal(notes) sustained a serious thumb injury and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

The Cavs don’t appear to be missing him right now.

Ray Allen(notes) scored 20, while Paul Pierce(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes), who was in foul trouble for most of the game, had 18 apiece for the Celtics.

Boston’s Big Three was no match for Cleveland’s Chosen One.

James added eight rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in another MVP-type performance. He also shook off being accidentally poked in the left eye in the third quarter by Garnett.

“I’ve got kind of a headache right now,” said James, whose area around his eye was discolored. “I was lucky to be able to finish the game. It stayed blurry for about 15 minutes. It wore off close to the end of the fourth quarter.”

Leading by eight after three, the Cavs scored the first nine points in the fourth. Cleveland’s defense, which usually gets tougher in the final 12 minutes, forced the Celtics to take bad shots and Boston missed its first eight shots in the fourth. The Cavs have held the Celtics to 24 percent shooting (10 of 41) in the past two fourth quarters.

“Defensively, we were awesome in the fourth,” James said. “Fourth-quarter time is our staple and that’s when we turn up the aggression. That’s exactly what we did.”

The Cavs appeared in control and on their way to a runaway win when Jamison’s basket made it 91-74. But Pierce hit a 3-pointer and Allen followed with one of his own as the Celtics, who went scoreless for a span of 7:09 bridging the third and fourth quarters, fought back.

James, though, converted a three-point play to put the Cavs back in control and his two free throws put Cleveland up 101-89 with 2:03 left.

James then capped Cleveland’s 29th home win by crossing over Kendrick Perkins(notes) near the foul line, driving inside and dropping a left-handed layup while being fouled. James seemed annoyed the Celtics would have the audacity to put Perkins on him.

“He (Perkins) was kind of talking to me a little bit when I was dribbling,” James said. “I just used my talents to get around him and get an and-one. It wasn’t disrespectful, though. It’s OK.”

Rajon Rondo(notes) had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Celtics.

The teams were meeting for the first time since Feb. 25, when O’Neal hurt his thumb when he was fouled by Boston’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Cleveland fans have been angered by TV replays, which appeared to show Davis grabbing and squeezing O’Neal’s thumb after the injury occurred.

Before the game, Davis strongly denied he tried to hurt O’Neal, a fellow LSU product and a player he has always revered.

“I did not try to break Shaq’s hand,” Davis said. “That’s crazy. Why would I try to do that? I wasn’t trying to grab his hand. You know how you try to frustrate somebody or just mess with them, get his balance off? That was a freak accident, really.”

Davis was aware of the accusations.

“I heard about it,” he said. “I don’t even remember touching his hand.”

Davis was booed when he entered the game in the first quarter and every time he touched the ball. He expected the rude treatment.

“I’m not popular at all anywhere,” he said.

Davis added to his villainous reputation in the second quarter when he was faked off his feet and flattened Jamison, who was setting up to shoot. In the third, he sent Varejao sprawling into the front row with a shoulder bump.

“My job is to play hard,” Davis said. “Energy guy, get loose balls, go out there and try to be a factor. I’m trying to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I’m not trying to hurt nobody.”

Powe still has plenty of friends on Boston’s roster and would love to face them in the playoffs. The Celtics are known as one of the league’s top trash-talking teams, but they don’t go after Powe.

“They don’t say anything to me,” he said. “It’s all love over there. They just ask how I’m doing, stuff like that. They wouldn’t trash talk me.

“Well, maybe K.G.”

Associated Press

Duke is tops in ACC with tourney titles, beats Georgia Tech in Conference final

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Miss after miss, open look after open look, yet Jon Scheyer ignored them all.

He wasn't going to stop shooting, not with an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship on the line and fourth-ranked Duke clinging to a one-point lead in the final seconds. He curled around a screen, took a pass and launched a 3-pointer that dropped perfectly through the net.

"It just wasn't falling," Scheyer said, "but at the end of the games, I felt confident."

Scheyer finished with 16 points along with that critical 3 with 18 seconds left to help Duke hold off Georgia Tech 65-61 in Sunday's final, giving the Blue Devils a record 18th ACC championship and putting them in prime position to grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Kyle Singler scored 20 points and earned MVP honors for the top-seeded Blue Devils (29-5), who blew most of an 11-point lead with 6 minutes left before Scheyer's big shot. Nolan Smith also had 16 points to help Duke break a tie with rival North Carolina for the most ACC tournament titles, while giving Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski his 12th title to move within one of Dean Smith for the most in league history.

In a tournament filled with upsets, it took a gritty effort from Duke's high-scoring "Big Three" to hold off a determined comeback from the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets (22-12), who were trying to become the first team in tournament history to win four games in four days. Duke ran out to an 8-0 lead in the opening minutes and led the entire day, but in the end, Scheyer's composure took over when the game hung in the balance.

"There's something about Scheyer that produces wins," Krzyzewski said. "I've loved coaching him because he has this spirit. He's never afraid and I admire that because as a player I'm not sure I had that all the time. I'm not sure many players have it all the time, but Jon has it and it's a beautiful thing."

He missed his first six 3-pointers before finally knocking one down to give the Blue Devils a 52-41 lead with about 6 minutes left, and stood at 1-for-8 when the Yellow Jackets ran off nine straight points to get within 60-59 on Derrick Favors' dunk with 47.9 seconds left.

But as the Blue Devils ran the clock down, Scheyer lost Glen Rice Jr. around a screen from Brian Zoubek, took a pass from Smith and confidently launched the 3 from the right side. He even held his extended right arm in the air throughout the ball's flight before it dropped through the net to send the crowd into a roar.

"I knew it was nothing but the bottom," fellow senior Lance Thomas said. "I didn't even go for the rebound."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt could only tip his hat to Scheyer.

"If you're a basketball fan, enjoy it for what it is," Hewitt said. "I told him after the game - I said, 'That's a hell of a shot you just made.' If he misses that, we're winning the basketball game, because we're getting the rebound - it's going to come out long - and we're going to score."

Instead, after a driving basket from Iman Shumpert, Singler knocked down two free throws with 9 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and essentially seal the victory.

It was fitting that Duke punctuated the game at the free throw line. The Blue Devils made 24 of 28 free throws, including 21 of 23 in the second half to offset a 6-of-22 (27 percent) shooting performance after the break and keep the Yellow Jackets in catch-up mode almost all game.

Singler shot just 3 of 15 from the field, though he did make 14 of 16 free throws - the 14 were a championship-game record - and finished with six rebounds. He had a nasty red scratch about 4 inches long on the back of his right shoulder, the result of diving over a courtside table for a loose ball, almost landing on Dick Vitale and ending up on the floor between press-row tables late in the first half.

When the horn sounded, Singler leapt into the arms of Smith for a hug near the sideline, than ran to hug Zoubek as the Blue Devils began their oncourt celebration.

"We just need to get refreshed and wherever we're going to go, we'll go," Krzyzewski said of the NCAA tournament, "but I think we'll go there better than we were a week ago."

In many ways, it had to be a relief considering everything that had gone on in Greensboro this week.

The Blue Devils were the only one of the top six seeds to make it to the semifinals in a tournament that had seen a bevy of ugly, low-scoring games in a Greensboro Coliseum that had numerous rows of empty green seats in the upper level from tipoff of Thursday's games.

By Sunday's final, Duke fans had gobbled up plenty of tickets from fans whose schools had lost, putting plenty of royal blue in the seats and creating a homecourt advantage for a team playing about an hour's drive west of its Durham campus to make Georgia Tech's job even tougher.

Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Yellow Jackets, who at least probably took care of their shaky NCAA tournament prospects after losing five of seven to close the regular season.

Georgia Tech was trying to become the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament and they hadn't won it since capping a similar run as a No. 6 seed under Bobby Cremins by upending top-seeded and eventual national champion North Carolina in the 1993 final. Cremins, now the coach at College of Charleston, sat behind the Georgia Tech bench for this one only to see the Yellow Jackets fall short of matching their '93 run.

"We're proud of what we did this tournament," Georgia Tech junior Gani Lawal said, "but we're just sad that we couldn't pull it out."

Associated Press

Carolina and Uconn playing in the post season NIT, Say it aint so

NEW YORK – North Carolina and UConn are lending some serious star power to the NIT.

Both teams went to the Final Four a year ago, and both were No. 4 seeds in the bracket for also-rans released Sunday. In the case of North Carolina, it's the second time in the past three years that the defending national champion missed the NCAA tournament, joining Florida in 2008.

"I just didn't do as good a job with this club this year as I needed to," coach Roy Williams said Thursday, after the Tar Heels lost to Georgia Tech in their ACC tournament opener.

North Carolina (16-16) hadn't missed the NCAA tournament since 2003, before Williams arrived in Chapel Hill. And Williams hadn't missed the big party since 1989, his first season at Kansas, when the school was ineligible due to NCAA violations.

"I couldn't get the right buttons pushed," said Williams, whose Tar Heels were ranked No. 6 early in the season but lost 10 of 12 at one point. "I didn't know what those buttons were."

Jim Calhoun can commiserate, after a trying season included the Connecticut coach missing several games with an undisclosed medical condition.

The Huskies (17-15) made an impressive run in February to renew their NCAA tournament hopes, but head into their NIT opener against Northeastern coming off four straight losses, including a 73-51 rout by St. John's in the Big East tournament.

"With a quick glance at the bracket, it looks like the field is remarkably tough," Calhoun said. "There are plenty of teams that were in position to make the NCAA tournament, and I think that with all of the parity in the field, it will be very difficult to win and advance."

The NIT begins Tuesday on campuses with the championship April 1 at Madison Square Garden.

The No. 1 seeds are Illinois, Arizona State, Virginia Tech and Mississippi State, all teams that spent Sunday hoping for NCAA tournament bids.

The Bulldogs may have had the most emotional afternoon. They blew a five-point lead with 2:28 left in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Kentucky, eventually losing 75-74 in overtime — and with the game, their berth in the big dance.

"We had our opportunities to close it out," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "That's part of the game."

The Bulldogs will open the NIT against in-state rival Jackson State, which got an automatic berth by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season title.

The winner will get North Carolina or No. 5 seed William & Mary, while the other half of their bracket includes No. 3-seeded South Florida against North Carolina State and No. 2 seed Alabama-Birmingham against Big South regular-season champ Coastal Carolina.

Virginia Tech watched its bubble burst for the third straight year, and will open the NIT against Quinnipiac. The Hokies (23-8) had a better record than Wake Forest, which made the NCAA tournament, and beat the Demon Deacons in their only meeting in February.

"I'm very proud of my team. We've had a great run," said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who can point toward a weak schedule and poor RPI for the NCAA snub. "It will be a tough job to get my guys up and ready to play, but that's my job."

The Hokies could meet Connecticut in the second round, assuming both teams win. Wichita State has the third seed in the region and will play Nevada, while Rhode Island received a No. 2 seed and will open the tournament against Northwestern.

"We went 12-1 nonconference, we beat teams from the Big East, Big 12, ACC," said Rhode Island coach Jim Baron, who hoped a semifinal run in the Atlantic 10 tournament would be enough to make the NCAA bracket. "We certainly worked our way in to be right there."

Illinois will open at Stony Brook on Long Island, N.Y., a road trip made necessary by a scheduling conflict as Assembly Hall in Champaign. The arena is booked Wednesday night for a performance by Cirque du Soleil.

Elsewhere in the Illini's region, Kent State plays Tulsa, Dayton plays Illinois State, and second-seeded Cincinnati gets Weber State.

Arizona State will open against Jacksonville, with the winner getting Seton Hall or Texas Tech in the second round. Second-seeded Mississippi opens against Troy, while third-seeded Memphis plays St. John's.

"It's a tough field, there's no question about it," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who took over when John Calipari left for Kentucky. "Obviously, we wanted to be in the NCAA tournament, but to be able to play in the postseason is a really good thing for us."

Associated Press

The selection committee made its choices. Now, it's America's turn.

The country's biggest office pool, otherwise known as March Madness, serves up the usual smorgasbord of choices, starting with Kansas, the overall top seed in the 65-team NCAA tournament bracket released Sunday.

"It's a blessing, it's a burden," Kansas coach Bill Self said of being No. 1.

The Jayhawks are the early 2-1 betting favorite to make the Final Four and win their second national title in three years on April 5 in Indianapolis, but there are plenty of candidates to knock them off.

The list starts with the three other top seeds: Kentucky in the East, Duke in the South and Syracuse, which will have to travel about 2,000 miles for the West regional in Salt Lake City. The Orange are trying to make the Final Four for the first time since Carmelo Anthony led them to the title in 2003.

The Orange dropped below Duke in the rankings due to an early loss in the Big East tournament in which center Arinze Onuaku injured his right quadriceps. Onuaku, who averages 10 points, five rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game, isn't expected to play Friday when Syracuse opens against Vermont.

"We're proud to be a No. 1 seed," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "This team has worked extremely hard, been consistent all year. Obviously, the tournament is always going to be challenging. It'll be challenging right off the bat."

The tournament officially begins Tuesday with an opening-round game between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop. It reaches full swing Thursday with 16 games, including Kansas' opener against No. 16 Lehigh in the Midwest — a region that includes No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Georgetown, defending runner-up Michigan State and is largely considered the toughest of the four.

"After you look at the bracket, you say, 'Well, I don't think we had a lot of favors done for us,'" Self said.

Kansas was one of seven teams from the Big 12 to make it — one fewer than the Big East, which sent eight for the third time.

Winning the conference's regular-season title wasn't the accomplishment it might have been for Syracuse, though.

The Orange (28-4) lost to Georgetown in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. That pushed Syracuse down, below Duke, which was expected to contend with West Virginia for the final No. 1 spot.

Winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament helped Duke vault over Syracuse and the Mountaineers, who are No. 2 in the East.

"Once again, we're talking about the entire season," selection chairman Dan Guerrero said. "We place value on that. Obviously, the big center for Syracuse got banged up. That's an issue to some degree."

Before the committee even met, there was no question there will be a new national champion.

Defending titlist North Carolina was on a long list of traditional powerhouses that didn't receive spots in this year's tournament. That list also included UCLA, Indiana, Connecticut and Arizona, which had its NCAA-leading string of appearances snapped at 25 years.

It will be the first time since 1966 that all five of those big-name schools failed to make the tournament.

"I think it is so frustrating because we showed flashes what we can be and the team we can be, it seems like we'll play that way for a while, then we'll just stop," said Larry Drew II, the guard for North Carolina, which will head to the NIT with a 16-16 record.

Now holding the longest current streak is Kansas (32-2), making its 21st straight appearance.

Leading the Jayhawks are Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, two key pieces in the team's 2008 title run that was capped with a win over Memphis, then coached by John Calipari, who this season moved to Kentucky.

The Wildcats are the youngest of the top contenders, with three freshmen — John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe — among its top four scorers.

"We do so many dumb things," Calipari said. "You're up 18, then you look up and you're up two. You have to keep your emotions in check, stay together, understand teams are going to come at you and you have to play harder than they play."

If Kentucky gets past East Tennessee State in the first round, an intriguing matchup against Texas could be next. The Longhorns were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country in January, but lost nine of their next 16 to slip to No. 8.

Also tumbling was Purdue, which was 24-3 and playing for a top seed as late as Feb. 24. Then, high-scoring forward Robbie Hummel tore up his right knee, and the Boilermakers lost two of their next five, including a 27-point loss to Minnesota. They dropped to the No. 4 seed in the South.

"Without Robbie Hummel in the lineup, they're a different team, no question about that," Guerrero said, echoing the same thought the selection committee had about Syracuse and Onuaku.

Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski are seeking their first trip to the Final Four since 2004 and first national title since 2001. Led by Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler, the Blue Devils (29-5) have won 12 of their last 13 and will open Friday against the winner of the opening-round game.

The ACC was considered a bit down this season, but nowhere near as low as the Pac-10. The traditional power conference landed only two teams in the tournament, and regular-season champion Cal was the highest seed, at No. 8 in the South.

Meanwhile, the Mountain West landed four spots, led by regular-season champion New Mexico, which was seeded third in the East and watched the selection show in front of a packed crowd at The Pit.

In all, eight at-large slots went to teams from smaller conferences. That was double the number of last year. Among those left out were Virginia Tech, Mississippi State and Illinois, which lost to Ohio State in double overtime in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

"It's a close game, a call, a basket going in and out, and they don't get the opportunity to be part of a special thing," Illini coach Bruce Weber said. "I feel bad for them. I reminded them we let some things go early and that put us in a bind."

Weber refused, however, to play the expansion card: One of this season's biggest topics has been the potential expansion of the field to 96 teams.

The at-large field has been widely dissed as one of the worst in recent memory.

Among the late entrants:

_Florida, a No. 10 seed in the West after missing the last two years following two straight titles. The Gators still have a 12-game tournament winning streak intact.

_Minnesota, a No. 11 seed despite a 90-61 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

_UTEP (Conference USA) and Utah State (Western Athletic), a pair of 12th seeds who dominated their regular seasons but lost in upsets to Houston and New Mexico State in their conference tournament finals.

"Frankly, we felt that they were both outstanding teams," Guerrero said. "The committee had great respect for not only what they did in conference but also what they did on the road and that's why they got in."

Associated Press

Pac man punishes Clottey in decsion

ARLINGTON, Texas – Fighting on the star, Manny Pacquiao showed once again why he is such a star.

With the biggest fight crowd in the U.S. in 17 years cheering him on at Cowboys Stadium, Pacquiao dominated a strangely passive Joshua Clottey from the opening bell Saturday night to retain his welterweight title and cement his status as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

The fight wasn't close, and it was never in doubt. It was so one-sided that even those in the cheap seats among the crowd of 50,994 could tell without looking at the giant video screens over the ring that Pacquiao was in total command.

One ringside judge gave Pacquiao every round, while the two others gave him all but one. The Associated Press scored it a shutout for the Filipino sensation.

It wasn't as flashy as his knockout of Ricky Hatton or as savage as the beating he gave Oscar De La Hoya, but there was no doubt Pacquiao was in command the entire way against a fighter who kept his gloves up high in front of his face and chose to engage him only in spurts. Clottey's strategy worked to keep him upright, but he was never competitive in the biggest fight of his career.

"He's a very tough opponent," Pacquiao said. "He was looking for a big shot."

Pacquiao was supposed to have been fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. instead of Clottey, but the megafight fell apart over a dispute over blood testing. He took out any frustrations over losing the biggest fight of his career by beating up Clottey on the biggest stage of his career.

"I want that fight, the world wants that fight, but it's up to him," Pacquiao said. "I'm ready to fight any time."

That time won't come soon. Mayweather is fighting Shane Mosley on May 1, and the earliest the two could get together would be in the fall and only if Mayweather backs off his demands for blood testing.

The fight this night was more of an event than a real competition, bringing in the biggest crowd in the U.S. for a fight since Julio Cesar Chavez fought Pernell Whitaker at the Alamodome in 1993. It paid off handsomely for Pacquiao, though, who earned at least $12 million and built on the reputation he has gained as one of the greatest fighters of his time.

Promoters not only sold out the 45,000 seats available for the bout, but added thousands more standing room only "party passes" for fans who could get a glimpse of the action and see every drop of sweat on the huge overhead screens.

"It's one of the most incredible stories not just in boxing but anywhere," promoter Bob Arum said. "Fourteen years ago he was sleeping in a cardboard shack in the Philippines and tonight he puts 51,000 people in this palace in Dallas."

The tone of the fight was set early, with Pacquiao advancing against his taller opponent and throwing punches with both hands from all angles. It was the same style that gave him spectacular wins in his last three fights and, though Clottey was clearly the bigger fighter, he fought back only sparingly.

"Everything's working now," trainer Freddie Roach told Pacquiao after the third round. "It's easy."

It was easy, too, much to the delight of the crowd and much to the delight of an entire country back in Pacquiao's homeland. There, traffic came to a halt and huge numbers of Filipinos, including army troops and allied American soldiers, jammed theatres in shopping malls and military camps nationwide to root for Pacquiao. In what has now become a familiar scene, Filipinos repeatedly yelled his name and threw punches in the air after the country's boxing hero was declared the winner.

Unlike most of Pacquiao's fights, this one lacked suspense from the opening seconds of the fight, when Clottey assumed the peek-a-boo position he would remain in except for brief spurts the entire bout.

"He has speed, I lost the fight," Clottey said. "He's fast, that's why I was taking my time."

Arum said he wasn't disappointed in the effort put out by Clottey, who was guaranteed to make at least $1.25 million.

"What was he supposed to do? If he played offense he'd get knocked out," Arum said. "I can't blame the kid for trying to wear him down."

Clottey seemed content to hold his hands high in a peek-a-boo style through much of the early rounds, trying to pick off Pacquiao's punches and perhaps rally late. But he gave away round after round, despite landing some clean punches on the rare occasions when he would throw a combination.

"You gotta take a chance," Clottey's trainer, Lenny DeJesus, implored him after the sixth round. "You're in a fight and you gotta start taking chances."

Clottey didn't, though, and his prize was that he was the first fighter in Pacquiao's last six fights to make it to the final bell. The only suspense when it came time to announce the decision was whether the three ringside judges would give Clottey any of the rounds.

Pacquiao threw three times as many punches as Clottey, an average of 100 a round, and landed as many power shots as Clottey threw. Final punch stats showed Pacquiao landing 246 of 1,231 punches to 108 of 399 for Clottey.

Clottey had gotten the fight off a good performance in his last bout against Miguel Cotto, but he was clearly more concerned with surviving the all-out assault that Pacquiao is noted for than winning the fight.

"Joshua Clottey had the power to knock him out but was reluctant to punch," DeJesus said. "We clearly got beat. I don't think he won a round."

Roach agreed, saying he saw nothing in Clottey to win.

"He had a good defense, but defense isn't enough to win a fight," Roach said.

Associated Press

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March Madness

If your a college basketball fan this is the time of year you love most. March Madness is upon us. Major Conference Tournaments are set to began this weekend followed by the the NCAA tournament which deicides the National Champion. It will be non stop hoop action all the way through early April. Offices will have contest and bracket parties filling out their eventual champion for the NCAA. CBS will have 10 games on at one time going back and forth to all the close games and highlighting the upsets. There will be heartbreaks and last second shots as your favorite teams will either win or go home. There will be cinderalla stories of teams who came from nowhere to beat a top seed and go further than they every gone before in school history.

Aww yes its that time of year. Final Fours Parties, Cookouts, better weather (depending on where you live) and plenty of Coach K American Express commercials. If your a hoops junkie, It dont get no better than this.


Iverson accused of having a gambling and alcohol problem

Multiple NBA sources say Allen Iverson is facing alcohol and gambling issues that have derailed his career and threaten his post-basketball well-being, Stephen A. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in a column published Monday.

Iverson's gambling problem is serious enough that he has been banished from casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City, N.J., according to Smith.

The report comes as Iverson is dealing with significant personal problems. He posted four messages Monday night on his Twitter account, acknowledging he was going through "some very tough times."

"To my fans: You all know that my life isn't perfect. I am going through some very tough times right now, like I am sure that we all do from time to time," Iverson wrote. "However, I will stand tall like always with 'rhino' thick skin."

Iverson's wife, Tawana, filed for divorce March 4, the same day the 76ers announced the All-Star guard would not return for the rest of the season. In the divorce filing, made in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Tawana Iverson said the couple's 8½-year marriage is "irretrievably broken" and sought full custody of the family's five children, child support and alimony.

Iverson, who played 25 games for the Sixers this season, returned to Atlanta in February to be with his family and deal with an undisclosed illness affecting his 4-year-old daughter, Messiah.

Smith, who has covered Iverson closely for years, wrote in Monday's column that Iverson needs someone with "the ideal combination of compassion and toughness" in his life.

And former Temple coach John Chaney said that person is John Thompson, Iverson's former college coach at Georgetown.

"[Thompson] is the one guy who'll have a chance of slowing this train wreck down, who could wrap his arms around Iverson and have an impact, because clearly it has not been done," Chaney said, according to Smith. "But there's still this one question: Will [Iverson] listen?"

Allen Iverson said on Twitter it hurt to hear stories about his personal life that he says aren't true.

"Even though I have become used to hearing people say things about me that aren't true, it still hurts," Iverson wrote. "I encourage you to continue your ongoing support and I want you to trust that this is another obstacle in my life that, with God's help I will overcome."

Iverson started the season with the Memphis Grizzlies but only played three games, amid disagreements over playing time, before announcing a short-lived retirement.

He signed with the 76ers as a free agent in December, making a tearful return to the city where he spent his first 10½ seasons, won four scoring titles, earned the 2000-01 MVP award and led the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals.

Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2006 and played for the Nuggets through 2008, when he was dealt to the Detroit Pistons.

Associated Press

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lakers are losing their edge, Drop 3 in a row

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dwight Howard was barking in the locker room, mocking some Lakers he claimed called his Orlando Magic team "puppies."

Out on the court, the Magic showed they can bite.

Vince Carter had 25 points, Howard finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds and the Magic beat the Lakers 96-94 on Sunday to hand Los Angeles its first three-game losing streak of the Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant Era.

"Alpha dogs usually have the big bark," Howard said afterward. "But since we're so-called puppies, we won't bark as loud."

Carter made his first 13 free throws and kept the Magic in control, showing why Orlando made the move for the eight-time All-Star after losing to the Lakers in last year's finals.

Throw feisty Matt Barnes into the mix to add some physicality, and the Magic finally got some reprieve from the sting of finals failure that has yet to wash away.

"You could see it in everybody's faces and everybody's demeanor," Carter said. "Everybody on that floor wanted to win that game. It wasn't just, 'Yeah, OK, whatever.' It was, 'Let's go get it.' That game was Game 7."

Bryant played through a minor stomach illness to score 34 points, and Gasol added 20 for the Lakers. But they all walked to the locker room distraught and dejected after Bryant missed a 20-footer at the buzzer to seal their latest loss.

Even being in the same locker room where they toasted to the title trophy, there might not be a time this season that champagne-soaked championship celebration last June felt so distant.

"There are some things that, as an experienced team, we should not have happen to us," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Those are the things we try to remedy, but today we were just a little bit off."

This one had all the drama of last season's series.

Barnes made a 3-pointer to push the Magic's lead to six with 1:10 remaining. A missed free throw by Jameer Nelson gave the Lakers a chance to tie, and Bryant did just that with a 3-pointer -- if only for a second -- with 12.9 seconds remaining

Bryant jumped into his teammates pouring out from the bench in what would be a premature celebration. Officials reviewed the play and ruled that it was only a two.

Carter's lone missed free throw gave the Lakers another chance, but Bryant's shot landed short. And just like that, the Lakers are in the first three-game skid since they acquired Gasol from Memphis in February 2008.

"I'm worried about what we can do to win ball games, I'm not worried about streaks," Gasol said after the testy game.

Bryant and Barnes continuously traded elbows and were each hit with a technical foul in the third quarter after going chest-to-chest in a verbal spat. Barnes had a put-back dunk a few plays later and dangled his legs on Bryant, who extended his right arm slightly into his opponent's chest, leading to another confrontation.

Barnes and Derek Fisher would get double fouls in the game's final minute, with the pair brushing each other after Orlando's feisty forward threw a blind-sided screen.

"We can't be the hunted any more. We got to be the hunters," Barnes said. "We got to go at people and take it at people, no matter who it is."

Barnes' attitude brushed off on his usually calm teammates.

Howard interjected and was called for a technical -- his 14th this season -- after muttering a few words at Bryant. The two All-Stars and Olympic teammates kept the verbal jabs going.

"It's the kind of thing you like to see," Bryant said. "You start getting two playoff contenders, it's good to get a little chippy."

The Lakers came back just like they did in Games 4 and 5 last year in Orlando, scoring 10 straight points -- including the first eight to start the fourth -- to cut the lead to 74-72.

Howard answered with a dunk over Gasol, who was called for a flagrant foul on the play midway through the fourth. That put Orlando ahead 81-74 before a back-and-forth finish.

One that finally went the Magic's way.

"You got a team full of Pitbulls and a team full of Cane Corsos, and that's what happens," Howard said of the physical play. "We're the Pitbulls. Pitbulls are a little bit shorter, and Corsos are a little bit bigger. But, hey, we got the job done

Associated Press

Duke waxes North Carolina in ACC rivalry game

DURHAM, N.C. -- Jon Scheyer stood near midcourt after his home finale at Duke. As he soaked it all in, he couldn't help but crack a wry smile.

"I was just trying to remember that moment, that picture in my head," Scheyer said.

Nobody else affiliated with the fourth-ranked Blue Devils will forget this night, either.

Not after an 82-50 rout of North Carolina on Saturday that marked their most one-sided home win in college basketball's fiercest rivalry and gave them a share of their 12th Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.

Kyle Singler scored 19 of his 25 points in the decisive first half, and Scheyer finished with 20 points in his final game before the Cameron Crazies.

Duke (26-5, 13-3) shot nearly 46 percent -- 51 percent in a dominant first half -- and made eight 3-pointers in beating the Tar Heels at home for the first time since 2005 and wrapping up the No. 1 seed in next week's league tournament.

Freshman John Henson matched a season high with 14 points for the Tar Heels (16-15, 5-11), who had their lowest point total under coach Roy Williams and absorbed their worst loss in seven years.

"This is the first time that we've had to come in this locker room after a loss," fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard said. "But the thing is, teams in the past found success here because we were tough enough and we came in and stuck it out through the times that weren't going our way and we made things go our way. And tonight we didn't do that. They were the aggressors on everything, and when it got tough, we allowed them to put it on us."

Nolan Smith scored 20 points and Brian Zoubek continued his late-season surge with 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils, who took command with an early 31-8 run, led by 30 in the first half and showed no mercy in polishing off their first sweep of North Carolina since 2004.

"You never go into a game thinking you're going to blow somebody out by 30," Scheyer said. "But once we get a lead like that, we really want to have a killer instinct and put them away. I thought we never let off the gas."

In some ways, this result was like so many others here this season. In setting a school record by finishing 17-0 at Cameron, Duke won all but one home game by double figures, and it entered with an average margin of victory here of 26 points. Just as they've done all year, the Blue Devils pounced early and never let up on their overmatched visitor, no matter who that opponent was.

But of course, for the Blue Devils, this one meant so much more -- especially after the Tar Heels won their last four visits. North Carolina is the only visiting team in three full years to beat Mike Krzyzewski on the court that bears his nickname, and following last year's victory, some players flashed four fingers as they walked off the floor to mark their fourth win in a row at Cameron.

Already stewing from those defeats -- and this week's loss at Maryland that kept them from clinching an outright ACC regular-season title -- Duke's "Big Three" made certain from the jump that there wouldn't be a fifth.

In the process, they made the opening half feel like a 20-minute-long burst by the Blue Devils.

Scheyer, Singler and Smith knocked down 3s on three straight trips downcourt to start the overwhelming run that put the Blue Devils in command. That spurt was so one-sided that by the time it ended, Duke had two players -- Singler (12) and Smith (10) -- who had outscored the Tar Heels (9).

"We told each other before the game [that] we need to have a game where the three of us start, every one of us start playing better," Scheyer said. "I thought that happened tonight, and it was a step in the right direction."

The Blue Devils went up by double figures to stay 6 1/2 minutes into the game, stretched the margin to 20 on Smith's three-point play midway through the half and made it a 30-point game on Smith's free throw in the final minute of the half.

The only question in the second half was whether Duke would administer its most lopsided beating in the history of college basketball's fiercest rivalry: Ultimately, the Blue Devils fell shy of the 35-point drubbing they handed North Carolina in 1964.

"That was one of the best games we've played all year," Krzyzewski said. "The three veterans on the perimeter really set the stage in the first half with how they passed and moved with one another. ... I think we would have been tough to beat by anybody tonight."

It was the Tar Heels' worst loss since a 96-56 loss at Maryland in 2003, and their fewest points since a 60-48 loss to Duke in the 2002 ACC tournament. Their No. 10 seed in the ACC tournament is their worst; the last time their record was this bad, the league had nine teams.

"There's not a lot you can say. We got our tails kicked," Williams said. "I told them if they take this and learn something from it and change, you can still get something. But if you just say, 'Oh, well,' you're not going to get anything from it."

Deon Thompson had 11 points for the Tar Heels, who were serenaded by chants of "NIT" throughout and played without freshman guard Leslie McDonald after team officials said he strained his right hamstring during Friday's practice

Associated Press

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Georgetowns leading scoring diagnosed with diabetes

WASHINGTON -- Georgetown's leading scorer Austin Freeman has been diagnosed with diabetes. His status for the team's upcoming games is uncertain.

The 20-year-old Freeman disclosed his condition in an interview with The Washington Post. He and coach John Thompson III told the Post that the junior guard's long-term playing career should not be affected, but Thompson wouldn't say whether Freeman will be able to play in Saturday's regular-season finale against Cincinnati or in next week's Big East tournament.

"It's just something I'm going to have to deal with," Freeman told the Post. "It's going to be a certain change in my diet and my life. But I know I can deal with it. I'll be fine."

Freeman missed Monday night's loss to West Virginia and was limited in Saturday's loss to Notre Dame. He was thought to have a stomach virus.

Freeman is averaging 17 points per game for the Hoyas (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP), who have lost four of their past five.

Freeman practiced with his Hoyas teammates on Wednesday.

"I felt good," he told the Post. "It felt real good out there to be back on the floor and playing with my team."

Associated Press

Kansas wins Big 12 showdown against Kansas St.

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Wearing another Big 12 championship T-shirt, his teammates' arms around his shoulders, hands patting him on the head, Sherron Collins looked toward the video scoreboard as tears streamed down his face.

His career in Allen Fieldhouse, one of the greatest played inside the storied gym, had come to a close.

"This is it, it's the last one," said Collins, 1 of 7 from 3-point range and 5 for 15 overall in his Phog finale. "I didn't want to get off the court. I wanted it to go on all night, but it couldn't."

Collins returned for his senior season on a pact with center Cole Aldrich, a you-stay-I-stay deal in an effort to win a second national championship in three years together.

Collins guided the Jayhawks to the first step: a Big 12 regular-season championship. Next up is the Big 12 tournament, where Kansas will be the No. 1 seed, and a role as favorites in the mad march to the Final Four in Indianapolis in April.

"This is my final game here, but we're not done playing," Collins told the still-packed crowd after the game. "We've still got some work to do."

Xavier Henry scored 15 of his 19 points in a tight first half and Kansas (28-2, 14-1) wore down Kansas State in a foul-filled game to extend the nation's longest home winning streak to 59 games. The Jayhawks are 32-2 against Kansas State in the Big 12 era and are in position to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Collins got them there. He won't leave Lawrence as the school's career leader in points, assists or steals. But Collins will walk away with more wins than other player in Kansas' distinguished history, 125 and counting, and a special place in the hearts of his teammates, coaches and fans.

"A lot of people love Sherron here," coach Bill Self said.

Kansas State (24-5, 11-4) relied on the guard combination of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente to keep it close while its front line struggled with foul trouble. Clemente had 21 points and Pullen scored 15 of his 20 in the first half, while the five biggest Wildcats combined for 19 points.

Kansas State had just four assists on 20 field goals and shot 7 of 24 in the second half to see its slim hopes for a first conference title in 33 years dashed.

"It's hard to win when you have four assists," coach Frank Martin said. "Kansas did a heck of a job of guarding us. Because of foul trouble and things of that nature, we had some lineups that made it difficult for us to score."

The last time these teams met, it was billed as one of the biggest games in the rivalry's 103-year history. The game matched the hype, with second-ranked Kansas pulling out an 81-79 overtime win at Kansas State's eardrum-bursting Octagon.

Turns out, it was just Round 1 of this rivalry rumble.

The Wildcats reeled off seven straight wins after that loss, wearing out opponents with their relentless style. The Jayhawks had clinched a share of the Big 12 title despite a sluggish loss at Oklahoma State.

You'd have to flip the calendar back to 1958 to find a Sunflower game that meant this much. That was the last time these teams played with both ranked in the top 5, a game in which No. 4 Kansas State and coach Tex Winter took down Wilt Chamberlain and the second-ranked Jayhawks 79-75.

With Wilt's No. 13 looming in the rafters 52 years later, Allen Fieldhouse was juiced like few times before. The Phog shook before the game started, especially after Collins took his tearful bows during a pregame ceremony, and even the pregame video was a decibel or two over the usual roar.

The Wildcats claimed they weren't intimidated, and didn't mind when Martin bluntly told them it was the biggest game since they'd arrived at the Little Apple.

They didn't play like it early. Chucking up wild shots -- Jamar Samuels shot one off the back of the backboard -- and passes to the cheerleaders, Kansas State found itself in a 15-4 hole. At least it was better than last year, when Kansas went up 18-0 before the fans had settled into their seats.

"They outworked us," Pullen said. "They had some shots go their way and made some plays that we didn't make. A few loose balls, a few offensive rebounds -- things that we are normally able to do, we just didn't do. "But, just like last year, the Wildcats clawed their way back.

Following the lead of the ever-calm Pullen, Kansas State whittled away, pulling within 40-36 on Wally Judge's soaring rebound slam just before halftime. The Wildcats kept it up to start the second, tying it at 45 on Clemente's 3-pointer in transition to cap a 7-0 run.

But that was it. Kansas answered with a 12-2 run to go up 57-47, then Collins -- 1 for 10 at the time -- went to work, scoring seven straight points to put the Jayhawks up 66-56. Tyshawn Taylor added a 3-pointer to cap the 15-3 run, but this was Collins' night -- evident by the tears flowing afterward from Aldrich and fellow teammate Brady Morningstar.

"It was emotional all day," said Kansas forward Markieff Morris, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. "He's been our leader, like a big brother. It's going to be tough not seeing him here next year, but he went out with a bang."

Associated Press

Marlyland wins at home vs Duke for tops in the ACC

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- On one glorious night, Maryland bid farewell to its three standout seniors, avenged a bitter loss to Duke and moved into a tie with the Blue Devils atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Greivis Vasquez scored 20 points, including a clutch basket with 37 seconds left, and 22nd-ranked Maryland beat No. 4 Duke 79-72 Wednesday for its sixth straight win.

It was the final home game for Vasquez, who was honored with seniors Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes before the game.

Afterward, fans stormed the court to celebrate Maryland's first win over Duke in seven tries.

"You couldn't really ask for a better script than that," said Hayes, who scored 13 points. "The ACC regular-season title was on the line; it was just a real special night."

Jordan Williams had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (22-7, 12-3), who haven't lost since falling to the Blue Devils by 21 on Feb. 13.

"This is a dream come true," Vasquez said.

Nolan Smith scored 20 for Duke (25-5, 12-3) and Jon Scheyer had 19. The defeat ended the Blue Devils' eight-game winning streak.

"Playing a big-time game like this was good for both teams," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Our guys were in a position to win the game. I'm proud of that.

"It was tough because it was a game where we played well. It wasn't a game when we played bad or played stupid. It wasn't like that. This wasn't a game where bad stuff happened."

Duke center Brian Zoubek, who had 16 points and 17 rebounds in Duke's earlier win over Maryland, finished with four points and 13 boards.

Both teams have one game left in the regular season. Maryland travels to Virginia on Saturday, and Duke hosts North Carolina.

The final minutes featured several outstanding shots, each more important than the last.

Scheyer hit a 3-pointer to put Duke up 63-60 with 5:25 to go, and Vasquez tied it with a jumper from beyond the arc. Scheyer then scored on a drive, but Maryland answered with a hook shot in the lane from Adrian Bowie and a fadeaway jumper by Vasquez.

It was 69-all before Williams scored on a follow. Then, after Duke missed twice, Vasquez tucked the ball to his chest and bulled his way to the basket before launching a shot that dropped through the net, making it 73-69.

"It was a tough shot," Vasquez said. "It was meant to be."

Sean Mosley added two free throws with 26.2 seconds left.

"It comes down to a possession or two of theirs. They made a couple of their shots, we missed a couple of ours," Scheyer said. "That's the way it goes."

Maryland finished unbeaten at home in the ACC and 15-1 overall. Afterward, coach Gary Williams gave some of the credit to the enthusiastic fans.

"The crowds have been great," he said. "We really appreciate that from our fans."

The Terrapins thrilled the crowd by getting off to a sizzling start.

Maryland led 7-0, 19-7 and 33-19 before Duke settled down. The Blue Devils took their first lead when Scheyer opened the second half with a 3 to make it 41-40.

Duke led 47-44 before Williams made a three-point play, Bowie scored on a drive and Milbourne added a dunk. After a layup by Scheyer, Bowie connected from long range to put the Terps up 54-49.

But Smith hit a tough baseline jumper and then converted a three-point play to tie it with 9:11 left, and after a series of misses by both teams, Smith's driving layup put Duke back in front.

The lead went back and forth until Maryland's closing 10-3 burst.

The Blue Devils ended the first half with a 19-7 run to get within 40-38.

Duke missed its first six shots and fell behind 7-0 before a tip-in by Zoubek ended the drought. Milbourne followed with a 3-pointer, but he picked up his second foul on Maryland's next possession and was forced to take a seat on the bench.

The Blue Devils were 1 for 8 and trailed 10-2 when officials noticed a snag in the net and replaced it. Kyle Singler promptly drilled a 3 before a reverse layup by Hayes and a three-point play by Williams -- off a no-look pass from Vasquez -- sparked an 11-3 run that made it 21-8.

At that point, Scheyer, Singler and Smith were a collective 1 for 9.

The trio accounted for Duke's next four baskets, and a layup by Zoubek got the Blue Devils to 25-19. Mosley then hit a jumper for Maryland, and successive 3-pointers by Hayes and Mosley boosted the margin to 14.

It was 40-29 before Duke ended the half with a three-point play by Singler and 3-pointers by Smith and Scheyer.

"They made every shot, we missed every shot -- although we were getting good looks," Scheyer said. "We felt pretty good going into halftime, knowing that was their best shot."

Associated Press