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Virginia Commonwealth sends Duke home early

Mar 16, 2007 - 8:21 AM BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- Duke is going home during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade.

Point guard Eric Maynor scored 22 points to lead 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth to a 79-77 victory over the Blue Devils in an NCAA Tournament West Region first-round contest.

After Duke guard DeMarcus Nelson hit a layup to tie the game 77-77 with 10 seconds remaining, Maynor drove the court and knocked down an 18-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left in the game to give the Rams the win.

When the (Duke) shot went through the net I looked over at coach (Anthony) Grant and asked him not to call a timeout," Maynor said. "I knew when I got it in my hands I was going to try and bring my man down and make a play. It just happened the way it happened, I'm excited about it.

The loss snapped a streak of nine straight seasons in which Duke has made it at least to the regional semifinals. The Blue Devils hadn't lost in the first round since a 75-60 loss to Eastern Michigan in 1996.

"They're not going to remember (1996)," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "If you're in this tournament long enough you're going to go down, first, second, third round. The fact is these kids played well enough to put us in a position to go down."

The Blue Devils used a 9-0 run over 3 1/2 minutes in the second half, capped by a pair of free throws by Josh McRoberts with 10:44 remaining, to take a 61-50 lead.

VCU responded with a 13-3 run and regained the lead, 68-67, on a pair of free throws by Michael Anderson with 6:01 to play. Jesse Pellot-rosa scored five points during the run and ended the game with 14.

"We felt like early in the game we had some good looks that weren't going in," Grant said. "I felt like early in the game our guys were tight. I think the magnitude of the game had our guys a little tired. I was encouraged at the half we were able to cut a 13-point lead down to two. I knew we could play better than we did in the first half."

Maynor scored eight points over the final four minutes and Duke missed four free throws, keeping the Rams in the game.

Coach put me in a position to make plays," Maynor said. "I've been fortunate the last two games to make plays for my team and get us a win. He always said be a player.

Jamal Shuler scored 14 points, including 4-of-5 from the arc, and Anderson added 10 for VCU.

Greg Paulus scored a career-high 25 points, but was just 6-of-11 from the free throw line. McRoberts also notched a career high with 22 points, but was just 2-of-4 from the free-throw line over the last 1:41 for Duke.

"I'm never happy when we lose," McRoberts said. "I didn't do enough to get the win."

"We missed a lot of free throws," Krzyzewski said. "We had an 11-point lead in the second half. In 10 seconds they got our lead almost in half. That hurt us."

Freshman Gerald Henderson, who missed the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament after being suspended for elbowing North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough in the face in the regular-season finale, scored eight points.