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Champion Bearcats to face Duke in NCAA Tournament

By : John Hartrick

The Binghamton Bearcats have a date with a basketball powerhouse.

The Bearcats, a No. 15 seed, will face second-seeded Duke in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 19, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The game will start 30 minutes after the completion of the 7:10 p.m. game between Texas and Minnesota, and will be televised on CBS.

“I went to church this morning and this is not what I prayed for,” head coach Kevin Broadus said with a chuckle during a selection-show event Sunday night at the Events Center. “We’ve got to play someone, so why not play one of the best? We’re excited and elated to be in the field. We’re not just going to participate. ... We’re going to play and give it our all.”

The unveiling of the field of 65 capped a weekend that saw Binghamton (23-8) earn its first NCAA Tournament berth in 63 years of basketball by defeating UMBC, 61-51, for the America East championship Saturday, March 14. UMBC represented the America East in the 2008 tournament.

Binghamton’s 11th consecutive victory set off a wild celebration on the court from the standing-room-only crowd of 5,342.

The Bearcats shot 52 percent in the first half to take a nine-point halftime lead. Senior forward Reggie Fuller had 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the half. After bumping the margin up to 14 early in the second half, Binghamton’s offense slowed, and UMBC began to tighten the gap. The Retrievers pulled to within six, 57-51, with 4:49 left. But the Bearcats, who went the final eight minutes of the contest without a field goal, clamped down defensively, holding the Retrievers scoreless the rest of the way and converted all four free throw attempts down the stretch to seal the outcome.

Fuller finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Junior guard D.J. Rivera scored 16 points and earned the Reggie Lewis Championship Most Outstanding Player honor. Junior guard Emanuel Mayben, who scored 45 points in the three tournament victories, joined Rivera and Fuller on the All-Championship team. Mayben pitched in five points, five rebounds and six assists in the title game. Junior guard Malik Alvin added 14 points and four assists.

“From start to finish it was a great game,” Broadus said. “The only way you can win a championship is to beat the champions. … These guys coached me, they taught me to be a better person. These guys showed me what a true champion is all about.”

Hundreds of fans returned to the Events Center on Sunday night, as they watched the NCAA field announced live on three giant screens. Cheers erupted from the fans and the team at 6:30 p.m., when Binghamton’s name was revealed on the brackets.

Duke (28-6) is the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion and is ranked fifth in the country. Coached by Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils have won three national championships since 1991. The team features two of the nation’s top players, 6-4 junior guard-forward Gerald Henderson (16.6 ppg), a first-team All-ACC selection, and 6-8 sophomore forward Kyle Singler (16.7 ppg), a second-team All-ACC pick. Jon Scheyer, a 6-5 guard, averages more than 15 points per game for the Blue Devils.

Since 1985, four teams seeded 15th have won a tournament game. In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Duke held on to beat No. 15 seed Belmont, 71-70, before losing to West Virginia in the second round.

The Bearcats’ 11-game winning streak is the third-longest in the nation, behind Memphis and American. Binghamton is 1-2 all-time vs. ACC teams, defeating Miami in 2005.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08