Thursday, March 15, 2018

Houston holds off San Diego State 67-65 in West Region

So many thoughts were running through Rob Gray's head as he dribbled near midcourt, time winding down in a tied NCAA Tournament game, that Houston's star guard nearly ran out of time.
"I was thinking to myself, I'm a senior, I've never been in March Madness. This is what I live for," Gray said later. "A small thought ran through my head: I thought about Cincinnati, how I had a chance to win that game for us and I didn't, and I just wanted to come through for us."
Finally deciding it was time to go, Gray drove for a wind-milling layup that trickled over the rim with 1.1 seconds left. And when San Diego State's Trey Kell missed a tough 3-pointer at the buzzer, the No. 6 seed Cougars had a heart-stopping 67-65 first-round win Thursday night.
Gray had come through where he failed in the American Athletic Conference title game.
"There's a lot of ways you have to win games, a lot of times you just have to do it from the seat of your pants," said Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson, in the tournament with his fourth different team. "The difference in the game tonight is that we had Rob Gray and they didn't."
Devin Watson had just tied the game for the Aztecs with a turnaround 3-pointer, his second in a matter of seconds, when Gray dribbled up floor with 29 ticks left. He allowed the clock to melt down to six seconds before crossing over, scooting beneath two defenders and scooping up his shot.
The layup gave him 39 points and the Cougars (27-7) their first NCAA Tournament win since 1984, when coach Guy Lewis took Hakeem Olajuwon and several members of Phi Slamma Jamma to their third consecutive Final Four.
"It means a lot to our program, especially sitting next to Coach Sampson. He's a big part of why I'm here. Rob's a big part, too," the Cougars' Devin Davis said. "We survived to play another day."
Jalen McDaniels had 18 points to lead No. 11 seed San Diego State (22-11). Kell finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, though it's the three points he missed at the end that will stand out.
Houston will play third-seeded Michigan in the West Region on Saturday.
"It's always bitterly disappointing when the season ends, especially when you feel like you have good basketball left," Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. "It's March. We had a March-type shot to win the game and it didn't go home. We're disappointed over that."
The Cougars struggled much of the first half to deal with the Aztecs' length, especially McDaniels and Malik Pope, the 6-foot-11 forwards who effectively clogged up the paint.
Houston finally started to open things up when it began drawing fouls late in the half.
Gray did most of the damage, hitting an array of floaters and lay-ins before a 3 from about 30 feet gave the Cougars a 39-29 halftime lead. Gray finished the half with 16 points, even though he went to the bench for a short stretch with two fouls.
For long periods in the second half, the best offense for either team came at the foul line.
McDaniels went to the stripe four times in five trips for San Diego State, and Gray answered with three straight trips for Houston. That was part of a stretch in which the Cougars mustered a single field goal over more than 10 minutes, allowing the Aztecs to slowly whittle away at their deficit.
Watson finally tied the game with a deep 3-pointer with just over a minute left, only to watch Gray answer with a 3 of his own to give Houston a 65-62 lead with 39.4 seconds remaining.
Watson got the ball in his hands again, this time spinning around on the wing for a can-you-top-this 3-pointer that electrified a vocal section of fans opposite the San Diego State bench.
Turned out that Gray would top it one more time.
"Two really good teams. Neither wanted to lose," Sampson said. "Rob had it going. He had it going. So we were going to ride that horse until they stopped it."
BIG PICTURE
San Diego State had won nine straight games, including its run to the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship, before running into the Cougars. The nail-biting loss dropped the Aztecs to 1-5 in games decided by four points or fewer this season.
Houston made the most of its first NCAA Tournament trip since 2010, becoming the sixth team in school history to reach 27 wins. Now, the Cougars can aim for their 28th.
UP NEXT
San Diego State heads home while Houston turns its attention to Michigan in the second round.

Who needs 3s? Not Kentucky in 78-73 win over Davidson

Hitting a 3-pointer is as routine for a college basketball player as rolling out of bed in the morning. So imagine an entire team - one with Final Four ambitions, no less - going an entire game without making a single one.
And winning anyway.
Fifth-seeded Kentucky all but ignored the arc Thursday night and failed to make a 3 for the first time in nearly 30 years in its 78-73 victory over Davidson in the NCAA Tournament.
The 0-for-6 effort snapped the program's nation-best streak of 1,047 games with a 3 that began Nov. 26, 1988.
It's such an overlooked piece of history that not even Wildcats coach John Calipari knew about it until it was pointed out in the postgame news conference.
Reporter: "It's been 30 years since Kentucky didn't make a 3."
Calipari: "Thirty? I was 9 years old."
Actually, he was 29.
But all kidding aside, Calipari insists his team is not that bad at outside shooting, even if the effort on this night added a few more gray hairs.
"We only took six," he said. "If we'd taken six more, we would've been 6 for 12."
The last time Kentucky didn't make a 3-pointer was at the Great Alaska Shootout against Seton Hall in the fall of 1988 - when Eddie Sutton was in his last year with the Wildcats, LeRon Ellis was the team's leading scorer and the 3-point arc was only in its third year in the college game.
UNLV now holds the longest streak, at 1,040 games.
Kevin Knox led the Wildcats (25-10) with 25 points, as they pulled away after 12th-seeded Davidson (21-12) tied things at 54 with 8:01 remaining.
Knox finished 8 for 16 from the floor, including a pair of baseline jumpers from the 15-to-17-foot range that helped Kentucky pull away. He went 9 for 11 from the free-throw line, but also 0 for 3 from 3-point range.
"I didn't know that at all," Knox said about the end of the streak. "We just shoot the shots that are open. It's rare for us not to hit a 3-point shot."
Wenyen Gabriel, Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green all missed one 3-pointer apiece for the Wildcats, who didn't even try one over the final 8:46.
There was some irony in winning this way against Davidson, which made a name for itself 10 years ago on the strength of a string of 3-point flurries from Steph Curry, who carried the team to within one basket of the Final Four.
In this one, Davidson made 11 3-pointers, led by six from Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who finished with 21 points.
Unlike Calipari, Davidson coach Bob McKillop said he was well aware of Kentucky's 3-point stats, but said the 0-fer hurt his team as much as it helped.
"It was a point of emphasis," McKillop said. "And it may have caused us the problem of sending them to the line as much as we did. And having them score points in the paint as much as they did."
Kentucky outscored Davidson 36-20 in the paint and went to the free throw line 32 times, compared to 17 for McKillop's team.
Meanwhile, it wasn't all that hard to envision the 3-point streak ending for Kentucky. The Wildcats ranked 344th out of 351 Division I teams in 3-pointers made this season. Only 26 percent of their attempts have been from 3.
They were 0 for 13 against Missouri on Feb. 3 this season before making one with 2:51 left to keep the streak alive. They went 1 for 11 in an earlier game against South Carolina.
Kentucky starts five freshmen - young even for Calipari's standards - and the coach insisted he was more concerned with his team's inconsistent defense in the second half than the outside-shooting woes.
But, he said, it would be nice to make one or two along the way.
"I wouldn't like to go 0 for 6. I'd like to make five, six, seven, maybe eight threes," Calipari said. "Others need 12, 13 or 14 to win. We're just not one of them."
COLD STREAK
Davidson, which made the tournament by winning the Atlantic-10 Conference tournament, remains winless in the NCAAs since Curry's special performance in 2008.
DO EVERYTHING
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals for the Wildcats. He's has 20 assists and only seven turnovers since the start of the SEC tournament.
NEXT UP
Kentucky plays the winner of Buffalo-Arizona on Saturday in the second round of the South Region.

No.1 Villanova thrashes No. 16 Radford 87-61 in NCAA opener

The fear naturally seeps into the thinking of players on top-seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament. Could we be the ones that finally lose to a 16 seed?
"I can't say it doesn't cross our mind at all," Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson said.
The answer from Villanova was an emphatic one: not a chance.
Brunson scored 16 points and No. 1 seed Villanova hit 14 3-pointers in an 87-61 romp over Radford in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
The Highlanders (23-13) posed no threat at becoming the first 16 seed to ever knock off a No. 1 in the tournament.
Villanova (31-4) played to near-perfection for the first 30 minutes and everyone played a role. Mikal Bridges had 13 points, Eric Paschall scored 11 and Omari Spellman had 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Wildcats play on Saturday against ninth-seeded Alabama.
Radford, out of rural southwest Virginia, must have felt like it was playing against ace pop-a-shot players. Villanova led 69-37 with 11:45 left and was shooting 75 percent (25 of 34) overall and 60 percent (12 of 20) from 3-point range.
The Wildcats turned an NCAA Tournament game into a glorified scrimmage.
Villanova coach Jay Wright was a bit wary of what could happen when he watched Penn give No. 1 seed Kansas a brief scare earlier in the day.
"We're watching Penn, because my daughter goes to Penn. My wife's rooting like crazy for Penn," he said. "I said, `You're rooting for Penn. If that happens, my boy, (KU coach) Bill Self, will be dying.' But you do, you think about it. What you have to do when you're the 1 (seed) is do everything to fight off that distraction."
Radford's Christian Bradford opened the game with a 3-pointer and the bench erupted.
The players should hope someone snapped a photo of the scoreboard as a souvenir for the one time the Highlanders led Villanova in this game.
The rest of the half was pure dominance by the Wildcats.
At one point, Brunson had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Radford? Just 10 points on 4 of 20 from the floor.
Villanova started the game shooting 13 of 16. For those who struggle with math, that's a crisp 81 percent.
Phil Booth, Bridges, Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo all hit 3s in succession to blow open the game. Even when the Wildcats put the ball on the floor, they embarrassed Radford - Collin Gillespie juked guard Donald Hicks about out of his sneakers and the Highlander fell right on his behind.
Hicks led Radford with 13 points.
"They are a No. 1 seed for a reason. But this team right here is special," Bradford said. "We're a championship team for a reason. We never thought in our mind that we couldn't come back."
Radford won a First Four game to advance to Pittsburgh. The Wildcats just won the Big East Tournament in New York. With more shooting performances like this one, they'll win much, much more in March.
BIG PICTURE
Radford: The Highlanders still had a successful season. They set a school record for wins and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in program history. Radford was picked to finish seventh in the Big South preseason poll but earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. Carlik Jones and Ed Polite are freshmen and should keep the good times going next season.
Villanova: Will try to avoid another first-weekend upset. The Wildcats lost in the first weekend as a 1 or 2 in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017. They lost to NC State in the second round in 2015 in Pittsburgh in a game that spawned the birth of the sad Villanova band member nicknamed Piccolo Girl .
TIME'S UP
Paschall led the Wildcats with 29 minutes played. Wright pulled his starters and his top subs off the bench much earlier than usual to give them some needed rest. Brunson took a charge late in the game and, though Wright admired the guard's toughness, he wouldn't play much longer.
TOTALLY RAD
Coach Mike Jones brought his team toward the Radford cheering section and waved and pointed toward the fans in appreciation.
"They didn't get a chance to cheer victory but at least they got a chance to cheer these young men," Jones said. "They got a great group of young men. Through the tournament, people got to learn a little bit more about them, but we got to be with them every day."
UP NEXT
Radford goes home and the Wildcats try and knock off the Crimson Tide to advance to the Sweet 16. Alabama had an 86-83 win over eighth-seeded Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

Seton Hall beats NC State 94-83 in foul-filled NCAA matchup

Kevin Willard was watching TV on the eve of Seton Hall's NCAA Tournament opener against North Carolina State when the self-described "Mr. Negativity" turned to his wife and asked what he would tell his core group of seniors if they lost.
Together they had resurrected a program fallen on hard times, yet success in March had been hard to achieve. Two straight years, the Pirates had been knocked out in the opening round.
"I said, `What am I going to say if they ask about their legacy?'" the Pirates coach recalled.
Well, he'll have at least 48 hours to ponder the answer.
Khadeen Carrington scored 26 points, Desi Rodriguez added 20 and eighth-seeded Seton Hall beat the Wolfpack 94-83 on Thursday in their foul-filled matchup in the Midwest Region.
Myles Powell added 19 points and Angel Delgado scored 13 for the Pirates (22-11), who led the entire way a year after a late meltdown cost them an early exit against Arkansas.
"I always preach to these guys, no matter what in life, if you work hard you'll be rewarded," said Willard, whose team will play top-seeded Kansas on Saturday. "For them to get rewarded for all their hard work, that's the biggest thing. That's what I'm feeling right now."
Allerik Freeman hit six 3-pointers and had 36 points to lead the No. 9 seed Wolfpack (21-12), who returned to the tournament under first-year coach Kevin Keatts for the first time in three years. Torin Dorn added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Lennard Freeman contributed 13 points.
The only thing that slowed down the high-scoring, up-and-down matchup was the whistles. The teams combined for 53 fouls, resulting in 66 total free throws. Seton Hall had two players foul out - Delgado was one of them - and the Wolfpack had three players relegated to the bench.
Three other players finished the game with four fouls apiece.
"There were a lot of whistles," Dorn said, "but coach always preaches you have to win all types of games. We just weren't able to do that."
The high-scoring tempo was set early on, when the Pirates scored on their first eight possessions and hardly missed a shot. If not for Freeman's outside shooting, the bruising boys from the Big East might have put away their stunned ACC rivals before halftime.
The Wolfpack made a run of its own midway through the half, but was never able to gain the lead, and Seton Hall used another late charge to take a 51-41 lead into the locker room.
"When we would cut the lead down, they would do a great job of putting their heads down, getting to the free-throw line," Freeman said. "Kind of stops the momentum a little bit."
North Carolina State closed within 63-60 midway through the second half, as Freeman began to complement his 3-point shooting by slashing to the basket for easy layups. But he didn't get a whole lot of help from a team that had relied on balanced scoring all season.
During one five-minute stretch, Freeman was the only one wearing red to score.
Carrington and Powell were just effective at the other end for Seton Hall. They combined to score 12 straight points for the Pirates, highlighted by a 10-2 run to seize control, and the starting guards showed plenty of poise when North Carolina State tried to make one last run.
"Our main focus was staying focused. I know that sounds funny," Carrington said, "but the last two years we came here, the guys were kind of drained mentally. We couldn't get over the hump. Guys came in real focused, real businesslike, and we're not done yet."
STATS AND STREAKS
The Pirates improved to 11-2 as the higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. ... Seton Hall has scored at least 80 points 17 times this season. ... North Carolina State had won four consecutive games versus the Big East in the NCAA Tournament. ... The Pirates led for 39 minutes, 40 seconds.
BIG PICTURE
North Carolina State hung tough thanks to Freeman, a transfer from Baylor, who went 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. But the rest of the Wolfpack were just 5 of 22 from 3-point range.
Seton Hall only committed seven turnovers, won the rebounding battle and took advantage of North Carolina State's foul trouble. The Pirates went 31 of 39 from the foul line.
UP NEXT
The Pirates advanced to play the Jayhawks, a 76-70 winner over Pennsylvania, in the second round on Saturday, while the Wolfpack resume Keatts' building job as he looks toward Year 2.

Ohio State outlasts South Dakota State 81-73 in West Region

Ohio State is not a 3-point shooting team. The Buckeyes don't take a lot, don't make a lot.
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years, the Buckeyes went all-in on the 3, casting it up 40 times. The last couple they tried, both by Kam Williams, helped push Ohio State into the round of 32.
Williams made a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:36 left, then added a trio of free throws after being fouled on another 3 attempt, lifting Ohio State to an 81-73 victory over South Dakota State in the West Region on Thursday.
"As soon as I let it go I felt like it was going to go in and it just went in," said Williams, who had 22 points. "It just felt great and everything just kind of got rolling from there."
Fifth-seeded Ohio State (25-8) traded 3-point attempts with South Dakota State - 71 combined in all - before reeling off 16 straight points to build a 13-point second-half lead.
The scrappy Jackrabbits fought back with a late run, scoring 10 straight points to tie it at 70-all.
Williams answered - by being fouled on a pair of 3-pointers. He finished off the four-point play for a 74-70 lead and made all three free throws on the second, making it 77-70 with 64 seconds left.
Ohio State, which was tied for 287th nationally with 612 3-point attempts, went 12 for 40 from the arc.
"It's not really who we are," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "It wasn't the game plan. It's really difficult because they're literally giving you tee-up 3s."
Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who will face Gonzaga in the round of 32 on Saturday. The Zags steamrolled Ohio State 86-59 at the PK80 Invitational in November.
"The whole team is excited for this one," Bates-Diop said. "We've been wanting this matchup ever since the bracket came out."
No. 12 South Dakota State (28-7) hit 13 of 31 from 3-point range and Mike Daum scored 27 points. The Jackrabbits had their first NCAA Tournament win within grasp, only to watch it slip through their fingers by fouling Williams on the late 3-point attempts.
"They're very well-schooled and disciplined, and those guys stepped up and made big plays throughout the second half," South Dakota State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. "But none stand out more in my mind than the ones Kam made that separated them to get the victory."
Ohio State was one of college basketball's biggest surprises in Holtmann's first season. He didn't take over the program until June and the Buckeyes were picked to finish 11th in the in Big Ten.
Yet behind Bates-Diop, the Big Ten player of the year, Ohio State finished second in the conference behind Michigan State to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015.
The Buckeyes were favorites in the NCAA opener, but also a popular pick to be upset in the No. 12-over-5 seed mold.
The Jackrabbits headed into the NCAA Tournament on an 11-game winning streak and had Daum, the two-time Summit League MVP.
The Dauminator was on his game against the Buckeyes, scoring 17 points in the first half. So was Bates-Diop, who had 17 points by halftime of a 43-all game.
After the run-trading second half, the Buckeyes found a way to make the plays down the stretch, leaving the Jackrabbits 0-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's always going to hurt that we could never get a W in this environment," said South Dakota State's Reed Tellinghuisen, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
BIG PICTURE
Ohio State survived the upset to get a shot at another upset survivor, Gonzaga.
South Dakota State had itself in position for the upset, but wrecked its chances with the two late fouls on 3s. The Jackrabbits finish with a school-record 28 wins, but still none in the NCAA Tournament.
OHIO STATE ON THE O-GLASS
The Buckeyes had a size in advantage inside - outside of Daum - and used it to their advantage on the offensive glass. Ohio State grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, leading to 19 second-chance points.
JENKINS' NCAA DEBUT
South Dakota State freshman David Jenkins Jr. had 16 points in his NCAA Tournament debut, but had to work for it. He had success getting inside early before the Buckeyes closed down his driving lanes. Jenkins finished 4 for 17 from the floor and 2 for 3 from the 3-point arc.
UP NEXT
Ohio State faces Gonzaga on Saturday.
South Dakota State's season is over.

Buzzer-beater lifts Loyola-Chicago over Miami in NCAA return

 Donte Ingram picked the perfect spot for this game-winning shot.
Ingram hit a 3-pointer from the March Madness logo just before the buzzer, lifting 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago over Miami 64-62 in a Thursday thriller at the NCAA Tournament.
"Well, it's pretty simple to know why we call it March Madness," said Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga, left holding his head in stunned disbelief after Ingram's shot.
In 2006, Larranaga took 11th-seeed George Mason to the Final Four. This time, it was Loyola's turn to celebrate after making its first tournament appearance in 33 years.
The long shot from well beyond the key came with just a split-second left, and was set up by a pass from Marques Townes. It happened after Lonnie Walker IV missed a free throw with a chance to give Miami a three-point lead with 9 seconds remaining.
"I thank Marques for making that pass," said Ingram, who was 3 of 8 from 3 and scored 13 points. "Any one of us could have hit that shot, but I was just fortunate enough to be in the position."
The Ramblers (29-5) matched the school record for wins from their 1963 national championship team in their first NCAA trip since losing to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the Sweet 16 in 1985. They advanced to face third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday.
Loyola, with an 11-game winning streak that is its longest since winning the NCAA title, was boosted by a pregame prayer from its team chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
She's held that post for more than two decades and, sitting courtside in her wheelchair, got hugs from the Ramblers when it was over.
"I just gave a big sigh of relief and said, `Thank God,'" she told The Associated Press about Ingram's shot.
The sixth-seeded Hurricanes (22-10) led most of the second half in their third straight trip to the tournament, but couldn't pull away in the final minutes and lost in the first round for the second straight year.
The buzzer sounded as Ingram's shot went in, and the Ramblers celebrated wildly in front of the raucous fans wearing maroon-and-gold scarfs in the American Airlines Center sections across from their bench.
But officials put 0.3 seconds back on the clock, forcing Loyola to gather on the bench and postponing the celebration until after a desperation full-court pass bounced away harmlessly.
The game-winner came after coach Porter Moser initially signaled for a timeout after Walker's missed free throw, but then motioned his players to bring the ball up the court.
"After they made that shot, I mean, it's definitely a dagger to the heart," said Walker, who led the Hurricanes with 12 points. "It definitely hurts seeing a shot like that go down, but I'm proud of my team."
Clayton Custer hit a tying 3 in the final 2 minutes and led Loyola with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from long range.
BIG PICTURE
Loyola-Chicago: Most of Moser's key players should be back next season, giving the Ramblers a chance to keep the NCAA appearances coming after such a long drought and such a big win.
Miami: The Hurricanes were back in Texas five years after winning twice in Austin to advance to the Sweet 16. They looked they'd have another shot at that until Ingram's stunner.
KEY SEQUENCE
Trailing 62-61, Lucas Williamson gave Loyola another shot at the lead after Townes missed one of two free throws with a chance to tie. Williamson knocked the ball off Walker's leg, but the Ramblers missed two attempts the rim, leading to Walker's missed free throw.
UP NEXT
With Miami's season over, Loyola advances to play third-seeded Tennessee in the second round.

Bagley, Duke rout Iona 89-67, breeze into second round

Mike Krzyzewski keeps wringing his hands about his team's youth. And then Duke and its roster of NBA-bound freshmen get on the floor against a more experienced opponent and the Hall of Fame coach's fears largely vanish.
Having Marvin Bagley III certainly helps.
The Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year did whatever he wanted against game but overmatched Iona, pouring in 22 points to go with seven rebounds in his NCAA Tournament debut as the Blue Devils pulled away for an 89-67 victory on Thursday. The 6-foot-11 freshman forward made 10 of 14 shots in 32 minutes - even making his lone 3-point attempt - as Duke rolled into a second-round Midwest Region matchup with seven-seeded Rhode Island on Saturday. The Rams held off Oklahoma in overtime in the opening game of the tournament.
"(This is) what we've had to go through the whole year, you know, the first road game, the first conference game, the -- you know, the first 10:00 of game, you know, all of those things," Krzyzewski said. "So this is a first for them."
Bagley included.
"I woke up and felt a little anxious," Bagley said. "I was just anxious to play. When the first game came on, I was watching it a little bit until we left the hotel. From there it was time to lock in."
After some early issues with the Gaels, that wasn't a problem.
Duke allowed seasoned if undersized Iona (20-14) to hang around for most of the first half then tweaked its zone defense enough to disrupt the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champions . Bagley and some solid shooting and unselfish play by the Blue Devil backcourt trio of Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent took care of the rest.
Allen and his two freshmen teammates combined for 51 points and 18 assist of Duke's 24 assists. Each of them made four 3-pointers, and when the Gaels came out to challenge, Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. had plenty of room to go to work inside. The Blue Devils outrebounded Iona 39-29 and outscored the Gaels in the paint 46-30.
Roland Griffin led the Gaels with 21 points off the bench. TK Edogi chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds and Zach Lewis and Schadrac Casimir had 10 points each, but Iona simply couldn't keep up while falling to 1-13 all-time in the NCAAs.
"We knew they had two bigs that was top in the country, and we tried to get them to shoot, try and beat us that way, try to let them shoot the ball all night," Iona guard Rickey McGill said. "Obviously, they was having a hot night, and it just didn't go our way."
Iona head coach Tim Cluess acknowledged before the game his team, making its third straight NCAA appearance and fifth in the last seven seasons, would have an edge in experience. At the end, however, Cluess allowed "talent is talent."
And the gap between Duke and the Gaels came into full focus about midway through the first half.
Iona welcomed the chance to run with the Blue Devils. They did. For a while, anyway.
A jumper by Griffin pulled Iona within 26-23 about 9 minutes into the game as the two teams played at a breakneck pace. The Blue Devils upped the intensity a bit defensively and when Allen hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, Duke led 53-39. A 19-7 burst to start the second half boosted the Blue Devils' edge to 26 points and any concerns that Duke would falter as a No. 2 seed for the second time in six years vanished.
FAMILIAR FACE
Krzyzewski won't have to look far for a scouting report on the Rams, coached by Danny Hurley, the younger brother of former Duke star and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley. Krzyzewski and the Hurley family have been tight for years and Krzyzewski is well aware of what awaits the Blue Devils on Saturday: solid guard play and a team that won't beat itself.
"Danny's team - yeah, he's built a - he hasn't built a team, he's built a program there," Krzyzewski said. "You know, that's the difference. That's what you want to do is build a program that develops teams year after year, and he's done that at Rhode Island."
BIG PICTURE
Iona: The Gaels lose Edogi, Lewis and Deyshonee Much to graduation but should one again be right in the mix in the MAAC next season, as they have so regularly during Cluess' highly successful tenure.
Duke: The Blue Devils got it together late in the season thanks in large part to their defense. It didn't exactly look that way at times against the Gaels, who shot 53 percent in the first half.
UP NEXT
Duke: Has never lost to Rhode Island in four meetings, including a 75-65 victory in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament in Nov. 20, 2016.

Top-seeded Kansas comes alive, beats Penn 76-60 in NCAAs

Devonte Graham kept driving to the rim, using his deft crossover and blinding first step to get past Penn's defenders, only to watch every shot he put up bounce out.
He turned to teammate Malik Newman and said, "Man, I'm just not finishing."
Newman's reply: "Keep being aggressive."
Graham evidently listened.
The Big 12 player of the year finally started to get his shots to go, igniting sluggish Kansas midway through the first half and finishing with 29 points, lifting the top-seeded Jayhawks to a tough, grind-it-out 76-60 victory over the Quakers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Lagerald Vick added 14 points for the Jayhawks (28-7), who trailed the Ivy League champs by 10 in the early stages Thursday before going on a 19-2 run late in the half to take control.
Graham, perhaps atoning for a dismal performance in last year's tournament loss to Oregon, also had six rebounds and six assists as the Jayhawks cruised into a second-round matchup with eighth-seeded Seton Hall - which beat North Carolina State - in the loaded Midwest Region.
"We didn't play well offensively the first half. We stunk," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's hard for us to play well offensively if we don't make shots because we don't have a big guy to throw it into right now. The way they defended us, we needed a guard to take it on himself to get downhill."
Graham stepped up to the task.
"He was just keeping everybody's heads right," Vick said. "He told us we weren't going to lose."
A.J. Brodeur had 14 points to lead the Quakers (24-9), but he was just 6 of 16 from the field and committed five turnovers. He was also 1 of 5 from the foul line, where Penn was 5 of 14 as a team.
"Give Kansas a ton of credit. Thought they played a terrific game," Penn coach Steve Donahue said. "It was a great basketball game for about 35 minutes. Then they finished us off."
The Jayhawks played most of the way without 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, who hurt a ligament in his left knee in practice last week. The sophomore center played three minutes, all in the first half, and struggled to move around while wearing a bulky brace on his leg.
Newman, the MVP of last week's Big 12 Tournament, and Svi Mykhailiuk scored 10 points apiece for Kansas, which won its 12th consecutive NCAA opener - and avoided some ignominious history.
Trying to succeed where 132 other No. 16 seeds had failed, the Quakers raced to a 21-11 lead with about 7 minutes left in the first half. They leaned on their stingy perimeter defense to limit the hot-shooting Jayhawks' 3-point barrage, and their pick-and-roll offense was humming.
It took the Big 12 player of the year to restore some order.
Graham picked the pocket of Caleb Wood on defense, trailed a fast-break play and was there to lay in Mykhailiuk's missed layup, trigging what would become a 19-2 run over the next six minutes.
Graham added back-to-back baskets at the rim, then knocked down a pair of 3s later in the run. He capped his 19-point first-half barrage by drawing a foul as the Quakers were attempted to give a foul away, then hitting all three foul shots.
That gave the Big 12 champions a 33-26 lead heading into the locker room.
Penn hung around until midway through the second half, when the bigger, stronger Jayhawks began to assert control. Their veteran backcourt did most of the work, slowly drawing away.
"Credit to Graham, he realized what was going on in the game. He has a great feel for the game," Penn's Darnell Foreman said. "Knowing he's a senior, he had to step up and force the tone and create and he did a great job of that."
MORE ON DOKE
Self said Azubuike could have played "five or six minutes," but he wasn't needed in the second half. The hope is to get him to 80 percent in practice Friday and play more regular minutes Saturday.
BIG PICTURE
Penn was one of the top 3-point defenders in the nation, and the Jayhawks missed eight of their first nine attempts. But Kansas still went 7 of 17 for the game, and each of those 3s seemed to come whenever Penn was threatening to make a run.
Kansas only got four points from its bench, a big concern going forward. The Jayhawks have used a short lineup all season, made even shorter by Azubuike's absence. But teams with little depth tend to wear down in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
UP NEXT
Penn is headed for the offseason while the Jayhawks, who made their first appearance in Wichita since 1992, will face Seton Hall on Saturday.

Norvell Jr. makes key 3 to help Gonzaga escape UNCG 68-64

 Zach Norvell Jr. watched Gonzaga's greatest moments play out from the sideline last year.
This year, the redshirt freshman will be part of the highlight reel.
The shooting guard from Chicago hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 20.8 seconds left Thursday to help the fourth-seeded Bulldogs escape a major scare in the West Region with a 68-64 victory over UNC Greensboro.
"He has a knack for that," coach Mark Few said. "When I saw him size the guy up, I knew that, A, he was probably going to shoot it, and, B, it was probably going to go in."
Last season's national runners-up trailed 64-62 with 1:48 left after squandering a 12-point lead they took early in the second half.
Josh Perkins tied the game at 64 with a long jumper, and after Greensboro's Francis Alonso forced up a miss, Gonzaga got the rebound and worked the ball to Norvell, who spotted up from the right elbow and made the 3 for the lead.
As a highly touted recruit, Norvell chose Gonzaga (31-4) over Florida State and Georgetown, to name a few, but he hurt his knee leading up to last season. A long recovery, plus the fact that the Zags had a stockpile of talent at the guard position, turned Norvell into a bystander last year while the Bulldogs were making the program's first run to the Final Four.
He's been front and center 2017-18, starting most of the season and averaging 12 points a game. And even though he was 2 for 11 before his game-winner, he had the confidence to keep shooting.
"Every time I missed, all the guys came to me and said, `The next one is going in, the next one is going in,'" Norvell said. "So I had no choice but to make a bucket."
After Norvell's go-ahead hoop, Alonso got called for an offensive foul, but on the ensuing possession, Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura missed a pair of free throws. Marvin Smith had a chance to tie it, and his 3-point attempt looked spot on, but it bounded in and out. Norvell made one more free throw to ice the game and finish with 15 points.
"You think about the what-ifs," said Spartans coach Wes Miller, who helped UNCG make the tournament for the first time since 2001. "I could've made some better play calls."
The game became a matchup of wits down the stretch, and Gonzaga had most of Greensboro's plays scouted. It forced Miller to switch things up, which contributed to a series of empty possessions: Alonso's force, his offensive foul and a missed connection on an alley-oop try between Troy Demetrius and Smith after the Spartans had taken their 64-62 lead.
"I don't think any of our calls were bad calls, but you think `what if,'" Miller said. "I think that's what you do in this situation as a player and coach."
Gonzaga, in its 20th straight NCAA tournament, won its first game of March Madness for the 10th straight year, though that's not the mission anymore for the Zags. They came into the tournament playing well enough to make another run at the Final Four.
They ran into a grinder of a defensive opponent in the 13th-seeded Spartans (27-8), the Southern Conference champs who held Gonzaga to 37 percent shooting in the first half, but couldn't make many shots of their own: they went 0 for 13 from 3 over the first 20 minutes.
Things opened up in the second, and behind Alonso and Demetrius (16 points each), UNCG chipped away, finally taking the lead on Jordy Kuiper's tip-in at the 1:48 mark.
But Gonzaga finished with the game's final six points - and a new name on its ever-growing list of playmakers.
"When I shot it, I thought it was going in," Norvell said. "I know I missed a lot tonight, but I knew it was going in."
INSIDE FORCE
Gonzaga built its 12-point lead in large thanks to Johnathan Williams, who led the Zags with 19 points and 13 rebounds. He had a hand in every basket over the first four minutes of the second half, while the Zags were building a 42-30 advantage.
LOCKDOWN D
James Dickey finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Spartans, and his long arms and out-of-the-building hops kept Gonzaga in check through much of the game. UNCG won the rebounding contest 41-37.
NEXT UP
Gonzaga: Saturday against Ohio State. The Zags beat the Buckeyes 86-59 back in November.

Tennessee wins NCAA opener, routs Wright State 73-47

Rick Barnes is now winning NCAA Tournament games with "Rocky Top" in Texas.
With the Tennessee coach back in familiar territory, Admiral Schofield had 15 points and 12 rebounds as the Volunteers opened their first NCAA under Barnes with a 73-47 win over Wright State on Thursday.
"The biggest thing is we came out and did what we said we were going to do, try to run them out of their offense, and against a great team," Schofield said.
The Volunteers (26-8) never had much trouble with the Horizon League tournament champ making its first NCAA appearance since 2007, even after missing their first six shots in the game. The Vols led 3-2 when Schofield made a 3-pointer with 16:42 left , and Wright State (25-10) went back ahead on the next possession before Jordan Bowden's layup put the Vols up for good.
"I was really impressed with our team," Barnes said. "Because we looked at this team, and they play hard. They do a lot of good things. ... Overall we've got a group of guys that have embraced that talent of working hard, and they've - we've tried to create our own standard, our own identity in terms of how hard we think we can play on defense and on offense when we stay together and execute."
Barnes is 5-0 in NCAA Tournament games at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, about a three-hour drive from the University of Texas. He led the Longhorns to 16 appearances in 17 years, with four NCAA wins in the home arena of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, before switching "Ts" and shades of orange three years ago.
It was Barnes' 100th Volunteer game, and 57th win. The Vols are the No. 3 seed in the South Region.
Lamonte Turner had 19 points and a career-high nine assists for Tennessee (26-8), SEC co-champions in the regular season after being picked in the preseason to finish 13th in the 14-team league. Grant Williams added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Loudon Love led Wright State with 12 points and nine rebounds. Everett Winchester had 11 points for the Raiders, who shot only 31 percent (19 of 60) in their lowest-scoring game of the season.
"Well, I think it's kind of the obvious," Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. "You just can't play as poorly as we did offensively and win an NCAA game, not against a team like Tennessee."
BIG PICTURE
Wright State: The Raiders finished the season with 25 wins, their most playing a Division I schedule. They are 0-3 in NCAA Tournament games. ... Love, their 6-foot-9 freshman center, had three fouls in the first half, when he played only 10 minutes before halftime.
Tennessee: This is the third different program that Barnes has led to at least one NCAA victory. He also won tournament games at Clemson and Texas. ... It was the Vols' 14th win away from home this season. .. The 47 points were the fewest Tennessee has allowed in its 41 NCAA Tournament games.
DOUBLE DOUBLE
It was the fourth double-double this season for Schofield , and his second in the postseason. The 6-5 junior forward had 22 points and 10 rebounds in the SEC Tournament championship game loss to Kentucky.
TOUGH ENDER
Wright State senior Grant Benzinger, their leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and the MVP of the Horizon League tournament, had only five points on 2-of-16 shooting, 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.
"Whether it was emotionally shooting the ball or whatever, he carried this team almost all year," Love said. "It's hard to see him play his last college career game like that. ... We know he was trying to make each one, so we can't blame him for anything."
RAIDERS IN FUTURE
While hard to talk about next season after a loss, Nagy said expectations for the team and how they prepare for next season should change.
"We primarily lose one guy that has played for us, and we're adding six, six good players," he said. "So our depth is going to change a lot. It's going to be very competitive."
UP NEXT
Tennessee is back in the AAC on Saturday to play Miami or Loyola-Chicago.