The first round of the men's National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament got underway in full force Thursday with several upsets and some near upsets. VOA's David Byrd was at the first-round contests here in Washington, where second seed Duke narrowly avoided defeat, and Xavier, Purdue and West Virginia also advanced.
The Belmont Bruins gave Duke all it could handle in Thursday's game at Washington's Verizon Center. The Blue Devils lost and then regained the lead in the waning seconds. Greg Henderson's lay-up proved to be the difference in the game, as Duke advanced 71-70.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was coaching despite being sick with the flu, said Belmont was one of the toughest opponents he has faced.
"I have coached in 89 of these games now. And I told the guys that as a far as game pressure goes, this has to rank in the top three or four," he said. "And hopefully the people at Belmont take that as a real compliment, because they should be complimented."
Saturday, Duke plays West Virginia, which scored a 75-65 win over Arizona. Da'Sean Butler had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Mountaineers to give them their 25th win of the season.
Also in Washington, the Xavier Musketeers beat Georgia, 73-61. Josh Duncan led Xavier with 20 points. Xavier Coach Sean Miller said after the game that his team's accuracy at the free-throw line was the key to winning.
"I thought the big difference in the game was we attacked a lot more in the second half," said Miller. "When you look at the free-throw differential, that's a big stat for us being able to not only get to the foul line but shoot a high percentage."
The Musketeers will play the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday in the second round. Purdue scored a 90-79 win over Baylor. Keaton Grant led Purdue with 17 points.
In other games around the country, Kansas State defeated Southern California, 80-67. Kansas State plays Wisconsin, which beat Cal State Fullerton 71-56. Kansas beat Portland State, 85-61. Kansas plays UNLV, which beat Kent State 71-58. UCLA beat Mississippi Valley State, 70-29. UCLA takes on Texas A&M, which scored a 67-62 win over Brigham Young.
Michigan State beat Temple, 72-61 and will play Pittsburgh, an 82-63 winner over Oral Roberts. Marquette defeated Kentucky, 74-66, and faces Stanford, which downed Cornell, 77-53. Notre Dame ousted George Mason, 68-50. The Fighting Irish take on Washington State, which defeated Winthrop 71-40.