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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Duke's Irving shines after long layoff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Kyrie Irving stole the inbound pass and sped downcourt toward the helpless Hampton defender under the basket. He leaped for a layup with his right hand, then switched to his left in mid-air.

News photo
Rousing return: Duke's Kyrie Irving puts up a jumper against Hampton in an NCAA tournament West Region second-round game on Friday night. Duke won 87-45. AP PHOTO

Duke's electrifying point guard sure didn't look like he hadn't played since December. And if he keeps producing highlights like this, his Hall of Fame coach will take care of two milestones in a matter of days.

Irving scored 14 points in his first game in three months, and top-seeded Duke routed 16th-seeded Hampton 87-45 on Friday in the second round of the West Regional for coach Mike Krzyzewski's 899th career victory.

"I haven't played in three months, so this game was really nerve-racking," Irving said. "But once I got the butterflies out, I started to play really well."

Andre Dawkins added 13 points, Mason Plumlee had 12, Kyle Singler finished with 11 and Miles Plumlee had 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils (31-4), who never trailed and shot 53 percent. They dominated from the start, winning their fourth straight and advancing to a third-round matchup with No. 8 seed Michigan (21-13) on Sunday.

Most of the attention surrounding this one centered around Irving, whose return adds another elite player to a Blue Devils roster already full of them.

After Irving injured the big toe on his right foot on Dec. 4, the Blue Devils prepared for life without him for the rest of the season. He worked out in public last week before an ACC tournament game, fueling speculation that he might return. Initially, Krzyzewski downplayed the possibility before acknowledging it earlier this week and then pronouncing him ready to play limited minutes.

"A guy with his talent, him at 70 percent is better than a lot of guys at 100 percent," Dawkins said.

Irving checked in with 15:19 left in the first half to a standing ovation from the Duke fans. Perhaps trying to do too much too soon, he was whistled for charging on his second trip downcourt, and his first shot — a wild up-and-under layup — wasn't close.

"I was pressing a little bit instead of letting the game come to me," Irving said.

On his next shift, he showed he's just as quick as before. Irving burst down the left side of the lane, drew a slap on the arm from Morgan and tumbled to the court — only to pop right up, unaffected, and knock down two free throws.

And once he found his rhythm from the field, he was nearly impossible for Hampton to stop, scoring on a pair of authoritative drives to the rim before hitting 3-pointers on consecutive trips downcourt in the final 2 minutes.

"The thing I was worried about was just staying out there and keeping up with everybody," Irving said.

Turns out, down the stretch, the Pirates were the ones who had trouble keeping up with him.

"He's a lottery pick," Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. said.

Coach K moved one win from joining Bob Knight as the only Division I men's coaches with 900 career victories.

Arizona 77, Memphis 75

In Tulsa, Okla., Derrick Williams had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and blocked a potential tying shot in the final seconds to seal Arizona's win in the second round.

Joe Jackson hit the first of two free throws with 5 seconds left, then missed the second to give the 12th-seeded Tigers a shot at the tie.

Texas 85, Oakland 81

In Tulsa, Tristan Thompson had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots, and Texas survived a second-half comeback by high-scoring Oakland.

Michigan 75, Tennessee 45

In Charlotte, Zack Novak scored 14 points, including two 3-pointers in a decisive spurt to start the second half and carry Michigan in a West regional.

The loss was the eighth in 12 games for the Volunteers (19-15), and coach Bruce Pearl's future is in question.

SOUTHWEST REGIONAL

Kansas 72, Boston U. 53

In Tulsa, Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 31 points as Kansas found its shooting touch in the second half.

VCU 74, Georgetown 56

In Chicago, Brandon Rozzell led four players in double figures and VCU made 12 3-pointers to stun Georgetown with a win that showed any remaining doubters the Rams do, indeed, belong in the NCAA tournament.

Rozzell tied his career high with six 3-pointers and finished with 26 points.

Illinois 73, UNLV 62

In Tulsa, Mike Davis tied his season high with 22 points, Demetri McCamey added 17 points and seven assists and Illinois dominated UNLV to set up another meeting between Fighting Illini coaches past and present.

Purdue 65, St. Peters 43

In Chicago, E'Twaun Moore scored 19 points and JaJuan Johnson added 16 with 16 rebounds to help the Boilermakers advance in the Southwest region.

FSU 57, Texas A&M 50

In Chicago, Derwin Kitchen scored 15 points, and the 10th-seeded Seminoles won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in 13 years.

Notre Dame 69, Akron 56

In Chicago, Ben Hansbrough scored 15 points despite another sub-par shooting game and Tim Abromaitis added 14 as second-seeded Notre Dame fought off scrappy Akron in the Southwest region.

EAST REGIONAL

OSU 75, Texas-San Antonio 46

In Cleveland, William Buford scored 18 points, freshman Jared Sullinger added 11, and Ohio State looked every inch the part of a No. 1 overall seed in rolling to victory.

UNC 102, LIU 87

In Charlotte, N.C., Tyler Zeller scored 32 points, John Henson added 28, and North Carolina used its hulking size to overcome sloppiness in its return to the NCAA tournament.

Harrison Barnes added 24 points and 16 rebounds for the second-seeded Tar Heels (27-7).

GMU 61, Villanova 57

In Cleveland, Luke Hancock hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left, capping the Patriots' comeback and keeping the one-time NCAA tournament darlings playing with a win over Villanova.

Marquette 66, Xavier 55

In Cleveland, Darius Johnson-Odom scored 19 points, Jimmy Butler had 15 and Marquette squashed Xavier's bid for a fourth straight round of 16 appearance.

Washington 68, Georgia 65

In Charlotte, Isaiah Thomas scored 19 points and No. 7 seed Washington held off a late rally to beat 10th-seeded Georgia.

Syracuse 77, Indiana State 60

In Cleveland, defensive stopper Rick Jackson scored a season-high 23 points, and C.J. Fair added 14.



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