Rams shock Blue Devils

Late jumper ends Duke's Sweet 16 streak

Virginia Commonwealth 79 Duke 77

West Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 16, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Duke's uncharacteristic season ended last night with an equally non-traditional exit in the first round of the NCAA tournament, as Virginia Commonwealth made the game-winning shot for a 79-77 upset and halted the Blue Devils' streak of nine straight Sweet 16 appearances.

VCU guard Eric Maynor, whose late-game heroics were the reason the Rams beat George Mason to get the Colonial Athletic Association's automatic bid, again played an integral role in his team advancing. This time, his 15-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining propelled Virginia Commonwealth into the second round of the tournament for the first time since 1985.

VCU (28-6), the No. 11 seed in the West Regional, overcame a 13-point deficit in the first half and will play No. 3 seed Pittsburgh tomorrow.

Coincidentally, George Mason was a No. 11 seed in its improbable run to the Final Four last year.

"Our guys never gave in," VCU coach Anthony Grant said. "They believed and they stayed with it. ... I'm just really proud of our team right now."

No. 6 seed Duke (22-11) ended its season on a four-game losing streak.

"The fact that we've gone every year since 1996 is a story in itself," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "If you're in this tournament long enough, you're going to go down. They just need to learn from this experience and we're proud of them. I thank all of them for giving us an opportunity to play in this tournament. It's not our birthright; you have to earn it each year."

Forward Josh McRoberts had a career high 22 points to go with 12 rebounds and five blocks for Duke.

With 21 seconds left and VCU ahead 76-74, McRoberts also had a chance to tie the game, but made only one of two free-throw attempts.

The Blue Devils tied it at 77, though, when DeMarcus Nelson made an uncontested layup with 10.3 seconds remaining.

The instant Maynor saw Nelson's shot go through the net, he said he tried to make eye contact with Grant to call a timeout - he wanted the ball.

"I knew when it got in my hands that I was going to try to break my man down and make a play," Maynor said. "It just happened the way it happened. I'm excited about it."

Greg Paulus finished with a career-high 25 points for Duke.

"I think our team has a rich tradition to live up to," said Krzyzewski, who coached an inexperienced team. "They didn't walk on the court tonight thinking someone was just going to hand them over a game."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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