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Stories for March 19, 2009

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Early Morning

Landing on his feet

Ex-Missouri State coach glad to be reunited with KU’s Self

Nobody involved with the Kansas University athletic department has looked forward to this week with more enthusiasm than Barry Hinson, director of external relations for the school’s basketball program.

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12-seed W Kentucky upsets 5-seed Illinois, 76-72

Whether they were relieved, tired or expecting it all along, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers didn't wildly celebrate their latest NCAA tournament upset. A.J. Slaughter was the most demonstrative, pumping his fist a few times after 12th-seeded Western Kentucky held off a late charge to beat fifth-seeded Illinois 76-72 on Thursday night in the South Regional.

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Shipp, Holiday lead UCLA over VCU

A long way from home, UCLA fiercely defended its turf and its hopes of a fourth straight trip to the Final Four. Darren Collison refused to yield in the final seconds, pressuring VCU's Eric Maynor into a missed a 17-footer at the buzzer to give the Bruins a 65-64 victory over the Rams on Thursday night in the opening round of the East Regional.

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Scheyer, Duke rout Binghamton 86-62

The efficient Duke offense that lit up Florida State for a season-high 12 3-pointers in the ACC tournament championship game re-emerged against the Bearcats' high-pressure defense.

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Griffin leads Sooners to easy win over Morgan State

An inadvertent blow to the jaw last month left Blake Griffin with a concussion and sent Oklahoma stumbling into the NCAA tournament. In the first round of the South Regional, Griffin got flipped over the back of a Morgan State player and landed hard on the court in an ugly incident that earned the other guy an ejection.

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Villanova survives scare to beat American

Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham each scored 25 points, and Villanova rallied back from a 14-point hole to beat upset-minded American 80-67 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday night. The third-seeded Wildcats (27-7) lost their home-court advantage and nearly lost the game, needing a late 19-2 run in the East Regional to fend off the Patriot League champions.

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Pondexter sends Washington past Mississippi State

Team captain Jon Brockman had a broken nose and a seat on the bench because of fouls. Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon weren't fulfilling their roles as Washington's top two scorers in the biggest game of the season. As usual, everyone forgot about Quincy Pondexter.

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Gonzaga rallies past Akron 77-64

Staring at a third straight first-round flop, Gonzaga responded like the talented and NCAA tournament-tested team it is. Josh Heytvelt scored 22 points — seven during a decisive late run — and the Bulldogs rallied to get past rugged, determined but ultimately overwhelmed Akron 77-64 on Thursday night in the South Regional.

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Michigan hangs on to beat Clemson 62-59

Shot after shot clanged off the rim, if they hit anything at all. Jumpers, 3-pointers, layups — didn't matter. Clemson just couldn't figure out Michigan's zone defense. Michigan stymied Clemson with its 1-3-1 defense and survived a late scare in its first NCAA tournament game in 11 years, beating the Tigers 62-59 in the first round of South Regional on Thursday night.

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Texas beats Minnesota 76-62 in NCAA opening round

Once A.J. Abrams found his shot, Texas was ready to leave its recent struggles behind and move on in the NCAA tournament. Abrams hit eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points to help Texas beat Minnesota 76-62 in the first round of the East Regional on Thursday.

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Moore, Purdue hold off Northern Iowa 61-56

The Purdue Boilermakers were beat up but smiling. Fifth-seeded Purdue held off a late charge by 12th-seeded Northern Iowa for a 61-56 victory Thursday in a rugged first-round game, and showed it afterward.

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UConn thrashes No. 16 Chattanooga

With their coach in the hospital, A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet scored 20 points apiece to lead top-seeded Connecticut to a 103-47 rout over Chattanooga on Thursday for its first postseason win in three years. UConn coach Jim Calhoun missed the game because he wasn't feeling well and was hospitalized for tests. He will be kept overnight for observation.

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KU men's basketball team ranks as fifth most valuable on Forbes list

Riding the wave of a National Championship, Kansas University’s men’s basketball team has been ranked the fifth most valuable in the nation by Forbes magazine.

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Maryland stymies Cal's shooters in first round

Maryland never let California get going from long range. Now the Terps are back in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Grievis Vasquez had 27 points and Maryland shut down the nation's best 3-point shooting team in an 84-71 victory over Cal in the first round of the West Regional on Thursday.

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Tar Heels roll past Radford 101-58 in NCAA opener

Tyler Hansbrough took quick care of his latest record pursuit, then helped North Carolina advance in the NCAA tournament without one of its star playmakers. Hansbrough set the Atlantic Coast Conference career scoring mark in the opening minutes and finished with 22 points to help the Tar Heels beat Radford 101-58 on Thursday, giving the South Region's top seed another easy tournament opener in their home state.

Darrell Arthur's high school used cage fights to help students settle differences

Workers at a high school staged cage fights among troubled students, making them settle their differences with bare-knuckled brawls in a steel utility cage inside a boys locker room, school district documents show.

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Thornton leads LSU past Butler 75-71

Butler has put together quite a few upsets in recent NCAA tournaments. Marcus Thornton kept LSU off that list. Thornton scored 30 points and the hot-shooting Tigers held off a late rally to beat Butler 75-71 on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

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Memphis powers past underdog Cal State-Northridge

After overcoming heartbreak and tragedy just to get to the NCAA tournament, the Matadors of Cal State-Northridge could not get past the greatest game of Roburt Sallie's life. Sallie, averaging 4.5 points all year for Memphis, scored 35 and the second-seeded Tigers beat the plucky Matadors 81-70 Thursday, dodging what would have been one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

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Bryan Davis leads Texas A&M over BYU, 79-66

Bryan Davis drove to the basket, drew a foul and tossed the ball up over his head with his back to the net. Like most of his higher-percentage shots, it went in. With Davis leading the way, Texas A&M beat Brigham Young 79-66 in the first round of the West Regional on Thursday.

Midwest Region, a breakdown: One man’s look at how the region shakes out

Here’s who and what to look for in the Midwest Regional.

Despite losses, KU improved quickly

Jayhawks of ’08-09 behind national title team, but not by much

Kansas University’s loyal basketball fans were sure their beloved Jayhawks would earn a 2009 NCAA Tournament berth, despite the fact the Jayhawks lost all five starters off last year’s national championship team. Some national pundits weren’t as certain. Remember, KU was considered a “bubble team” as late as Jan. 10 when the Jayhawks returned from a 75-62 loss at Michigan State with an 11-4 record.

Tandem terrors rare among titlists

Searching 40 years of mental archives from watching NCAA title games — 39 on television, one in person — doesn’t lead to many national champions remembered most for featuring two terrific players. The last three national champs — Kansas and Florida twice — featured balanced teams that could survive and advance if a couple of starters had off nights.

Morrises inseparable: Twins Marcus, Markieff rarely apart

Early last week, in the bowels of Kansas University’s Allen Fieldhouse, Marcus and Markieff Morris were busy agreeing with each other. This was not exactly breaking news. Marcus and Markieff, identical twins and KU freshman basketball players, are pretty much in agreement on everything. They agree on favorite historical figure (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and what school subject is the most interesting (math) and how best to prepare for an upcoming basketball game (listening to music).

Collins, Aldrich key duo for Kansas

Bill Self knew early-on there was one way — and only one way — for Kansas University’s basketball team to survive the loss of five starters from the 2008 national title team. Quite simply, it was for junior guard Sherron Collins and sophomore center Cole Aldrich to combine for monster seasons both on the court and in the locker room in 2008-09.

NDSU’s fun short-lived

To hear North Dakota State University men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips tell it, his excitement at earning the first NCAA Tournament bid of his head-coaching career lasted all of a couple of nanoseconds.

KU history filled with dynamic duos

This season’s Kansas basketball team has easily one of the best 1-2 punches in the Jayhawks’ illustrious court history. Ultimately it might even lay claim to being the best. Guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich can measure up to about any KU Dynamic Duos you can name. Fortunately, they’ll have even more chances to cement their potent-pair reputation as the 2009 Jayhawks try to defend their 2008 NCAA championship.

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Jayhawks arrive in Minneapolis

Cole Aldrich was the first Kansas University basketball player to hop off the team bus and head into the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis hotel early Wednesday evening.

KU softball to make up game on Tuesday

The Kansas University softball team, which had its game against Missouri State canceled last Thursday because of cold temperatures, will make up the game at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at Arrocha Ballpark.

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Landing on his feet

Ex-Missouri State coach glad to be reunited with KU’s Self

Nobody involved with the Kansas University athletic department has looked forward to this week with more enthusiasm than Barry Hinson, director of external relations for the school’s basketball program.

Pinch-hit walkoff dooms Jayhawks in 9-8 loss

Guy Willeford's pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted San Diego State to a 9-8 triumph over the Kansas University baseball team on Wednesday evening and completed a two-game sweep of the Jayhawks at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

KU needs Collins at his best

It’s D-Day-, Battle of the Bulge- and Iwo Jima-time for Gen. Sherron Collins. As he goes, so, probably, will the Kansas basketball team go in the NCAA Tournament.

What to look for on first day of NCAAs

When the NCAA Tournament tips off in Greensboro, Butler and Louisiana State will begin to answer the season’s age-old question: Would the Bulldogs have been even better in the SEC?

Afenir, Faunce up for awards

Two members of the Kansas University baseball team — senior catcher Buck Afenir and senior outfielder Nick Faunce — are in the running for national awards.