March 27, 2004

Duke, Duhon Overcome Illinois 72-62

ATLANTA - Chris Duhon may be hurting, but he's doing just fine. So are the Duke Blue Devils. Dragging himself off the floor time and time again, Duhon steered Duke into an all-too-familiar position — one win from the Final Four — with a 72-62 victory over Illinois in the Atlanta Regional semifinals Friday night.

Duhon attempted only one shot, but it didn't matter for Duke (30-5). The 6-foot-1 point guard dished out eight assists and kept sneaking inside for rebounds, winding up with a game-high 10. He also spent part of the night guarding Illinois' top scorer, Deron Williams, who managed just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Not bad for a guy who was playing with sore ribs, a heavy wrapping visible under his jersey. Duhon was hurt in the ACC championship game — when the Blue Devils looked vulnerable after a stunning collapse against Maryland.

Not so fast.

Top-seeded Duke pulled away from Illinois (29-6) in the second half and headed on to the regional final to meet No. 7 Xavier, which knocked off Texas 79-71 in the first game of the evening. The winner of that game gets a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio.

Luol Deng led the Blue Devils with 18 points, while J.J. Redick added 17 and Shelden Williams 14. But it was Duhon, the senior leader, who set the tone.

He dove out of bounds once to make a save, managing to call timeout before slamming to the floor. On two other occasions, he was knocked to the court by Illinois players.

Every time, Duhon pulled himself up and kept on going.

Georgia Tech Sails Over Nevada

ST. LOUIS - Georgia Tech is so good it didn't even need its leading scorer to reach the regional finals of the NCAA tournament. Marvin Lewis had 23 points and Will Bynum made a huge layup with 65 seconds left to give the Yellow Jackets a 72-67 victory over Nevada on Friday night in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

The third-seeded Yellow Jackets (26-9) are in the regional finals for just the third time in school history and the first time since 1990.

They'll play fourth-seeded Kansas in the St. Louis Regional final on Sunday. Kansas (24-8) demolished upstart Alabama-Birmingham 100-74 in the early game to advance to the regional finals for a third straight year.

The 10th-seeded Wolf Pack (25-9) knocked off Michigan State and routed Gonzaga to make the round of 16, and it seemed as if another upset was in the making early — especially with Georgia Tech forced to play without B.J. Elder.

Elder, who is averaging 16.2 points, sprained his right ankle less than two minutes into the game when Kirk Snyder landed on it.

The Wolf Pack led by as much as eight in the first half. But they cooled off in the second and Georgia Tech's stingy defense finally kicked in. The Wolf Pack was a dismal 7-for-33 in the second half, and Snyder was just 2-for-12. Snyder didn't score his first points until there were 6 1/2 minutes left.

Todd Okeson, who had 11 points in the first half, was 1-of-10 in the second, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

Lewis made back-to-back 3s to give Georgia Tech a 63-58 lead, its largest of the game, with 5:20 left. But Snyder, so quiet most of the half, came back big. His 3-pointer with 3:26 left pulled the Wolf Pack within 67-65, and he made a pair of free throws 90 seconds later to tie the game.

But then Bynum came up with the play of the night. The 6-foot spark plug hasn't gotten as much playing time as maybe he'd like, playing behind Jarrett Jack. But when he does get the ball, good makes things happen.

Driving hard to the basket, he leaped over Okeson, knocking him over while making the layup. Bynum looked as if he might land on his head, but he somehow managed to right himself while the ball swished through the net to give Georgia Tech a 69-67 lead with 1:04 to play.

The Wolf Pack was forced to foul, and Lewis missed the first, drawing a loud groan from the vocal Georgia Tech contingent. He made the second, giving the Yellow Jackets a 70-67 lead with 49 seconds left.

Nevada had one last chance, but Okeson missed a long 3-pointer. Moore was fouled, and he made the first to seal the victory.

Snyder finished with 21 points and when the final buzzer sounded he sat on the floor, watching the Georgia Tech fans celebrate.

Okeson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Cal advances to national championship game on ESPN2

ST. JOSEPH, MO – The California Vulcans are one step closer to greatness.

The Vulcans defeated Merrimack College 89-65 on Thursday night to advance to the NCAA Division II championship game against Drury University. The game will be televised live on Saturday, March 27 at 6 p.m. EST time on ESPN2.

One of the stars of the game was a figure who has played sparingly on the season. Dani Mills, the freshman from Bradford, Ontario, scored a career-high 10 points to go with a team-high nine rebounds and played a huge role in Cal’s victory. Mills was averaging just 1.9 points per game and 1.2 rebounds per game entering the contest.

“ We’re always looking for someone to step up coming off the bench,” Mills said. “Tonight was my night.”

“ Dani really came out tonight. She was very composed and made a big difference for us,” added Cal coach Darcie Vincent.

The game looked like it was going to be a rout, with Cal (34-1) scoring just five seconds into the game. A few minutes later, the score was 20-4. At one point, the Vulcans held a 21-point lead and were up 47-28 at halftime.

Then a problem happened.

The Warriors (31-3) came out of the second half with a fire in their eyes, going on a 17-4 run in the first five minutes to close their deficit to six points. Cal answered with a couple baskets of their own, but Merrimack managed to close the gap to six points again at 60-54.

“ They were playing harder and more aggressive than us in the second half,” Vincent said.

But the comeback attempt stopped for the Warriors, who were held to 11 points over the final 11 minutes. The Vulcans racked up 29 points to come away with the victory.

Two Vulcans (Sameera Philyaw and Becky Siembak) scored 20 points. Siembak scored her 2,000th career point and stands at 2,014. She is only the seventh PSAC player to reach that mark.

Sara McKinney scored 18 points and Megan Storck notched yet another double-double with 12 points and 14 assists. Four Vulcans grabbed seven or more rebounds (Siembak and McKinney had eight and Fanisha Clark had seven).

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