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Henderson's layup helps Duke avoid another early exit

Mar 21, 2008 - 4:12 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- When at first he did not succeed, Gerald Henderson tried again and squeaked Duke into the second round.

Henderson completed a coast-to-coast layup with 11 seconds remaining as the Blue Devils pulled out a 71-70 victory over No. 15 Belmont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

The second seed in the West Regional, Duke (28-5) just barely avoided losing in the opening round for the second straight year. Last season, it was stunned by No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth.

According to coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils faced as great a challenge as they had in any of their previous tournament games under the Hall of Famer.

"In the last nine minutes of the game, our team had tremendous pressure on them," he said. "I've coached in 89 of these games now, and as far as pressure goes, that one ranks in the top three."

Duke will face seventh seed West Virginia in Saturday's second round.

For Belmont, it came heart-wrenchingly close to becoming the first team since Hampton in 2001 to win as a No. 15 seed.

"Certainly this is a disappointing moment for our team, our program and our young men to come so very close to getting such a huge win for our school and then go talk to kids who are crying," Bruins coach Rick Byrd said.

"It's a heartbreaker," junior guard Alex Renfroe said. "After the game, I was speechless."

With the Blue Devils trailing 70-69 with around a minute remaining, Henderson had a jump hook in the lane rattle out. However, the sophomore guard got a second chance after Duke locked down the Bruins on the defensive end.

"Down the stretch, we were going primarily to G (Gerald Henderson) to generate stuff for us," Krzyzewski said. "When G missed that shot with just around a minute to go, I told the kids we need one stop and I'm not calling timeout.

After Renfroe missed a jumper in the lane, Henderson grabbed the rebound and alertly took the ball straight to the basket when no Belmont player picked him up.

"Right when I got to the 3-point line, I saw there was a lane," Henderson said.

"Gerald made one of the great plays going all the way," Krzyzewski said.

The Bruins (25-9) could not answer on the other end, with a missed shot and then a blown inbounds play that ended with the Blue Devils' DeMarcus Nelson grabbing a lobbed pass.

"We drew up a play and we've been practicing it and it's worked before," Renfroe said about the failed inbounds play. "I was trying to lob it in front of the rim for Shane (Dansby). I didn't really get a clear look. They just made a great play on it. They were physical. I think the bump took the play away."

Nelson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2.1 seconds left and, after a timeout by Belmont, Justin Hare's last-second heave from near halfcourt fell short.

Henderson led Duke with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He also grabbed seven rebounds.

Jon Scheyer had 13 points and five boards off the bench for the Blue Devils, who had another tough matchup as a second seed in 1997 when they edged Murray State, 71-68.

Since then, the Blue Devils have been a top seed eight times, winning all of those games by an average of 32.4 points.

Renfroe scored 15 points for the Bruins, who lost in the first round for a third straight year, getting routed by UCLA and Georgetown each of the past two seasons.

After losing by a combined 59 points to the Bruins and the Hoyas, Belmont showed no fear against Duke, matching the Blue Devils nearly shot for shot.

The Bruins shot 48 percent (14-of-29) with five 3-pointers in the first half, trailing 42-35 only after the Blue Devils scored seven of the last nine points.

"In the first half, we played well," Hare said. "It was back and forth and we felt we could compete with them out there and took that confidence to the second half."

Duke attempted to open up the game at the start of the second, pulling ahead 51-41 on a jumper by freshman Kyle Singler with 17:05 remaining.

However, Belmont countered with a 9-0 run, closing within 51-50 on a 3-pointer by Hare with 14:17 to go. The Bruins continued to lurk until Renfroe's three-point play gave them a 58-56 lead with 10:59 left.

It was Belmont's first lead since 7-5 just over four minutes into the contest.

After a layup by Henderson tied the score at 58-58, the Blue Devils tried to pull away again, as Greg Paulus hit a jumper and Scheyer was fouled on a 3-pointer. The sophomore could not complete the four-point play, however, as Duke had to settle for a 63-58 edge with 7:12 remaining.

Yet, the Bruins made another move, pulling ahead with a 12-6 run over the next five minutes to take a 70-69 advantage on two free throws by Hare with 2:02 to play.

"The way they shoot the ball (makes them tough to defend)," said Paulus, who had 12 points. "They've got some guys who can put the ball on the floor."

Hare finished with nine points and Matthew Dotson and Andy Wicke scored 14 each for Belmont, which outscored Duke in the paint, 30-28.