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Inside College Basketball | Robyn Norwood / ON COLLEGE

It could be finer in Carolina

February 07, 2007|Robyn Norwood

It's time for another Duke-North Carolina classic, with a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 clash of undefeated rivals Thursday in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Hold that double take.

It's the women who are unbeaten.

Make way for Coach G vs. Sylvia, as the No. 1 Blue Devils coached by Gail Goestenkors brace for Sylvia Hatchell's No. 2 Tar Heels.

"I don't know how much better it can get," Hatchell said. "It will be better than a national championship, to tell you the truth."

That makes Coach K vs. Roy tonight when No. 16 Duke plays host to No. 5 North Carolina in Durham something of a preliminary -- though hardly in the minds of fans in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region.

The latest game in the storied rivalry of the men's teams arrives amid unusual circumstances.

Carolina is coming off a loss to North Carolina State.

Duke is coming off two, to Virginia and Florida State.

"There haven't been many times Duke and Carolina have played with both of them coming off a loss," North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said.

That's a mere detail to Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who said Duke-vs.-Carolina was its own motivation.

But something has to give: North Carolina hasn't lost consecutive games to N.C. State and Duke since 1975, and Duke hasn't lost three games in succession since 1996.

It's not that these teams are in the dumps. Carolina remains a favorite to reach the Final Four, and Duke, though a few notches below its accustomed form, still looks to be a Sweet 16 team, even without its typical level of guard play and offensive ability.

"I think we've played well, but we've lost two heartbreakers in the last two ballgames," Krzyzewski said after a two-point overtime loss to Virginia and a one-point loss to Florida State.

"When you lose two games that you have a winning shot at, that doesn't happen. When it happens two times in a row, that really doesn't happen very often," Krzyzewski said.

"We have to get ready for North Carolina. We just have to get on to the next play."

Williams said he was concerned about the Tar Heels' "concentration level," after a four-point loss to N.C. State.

But it's on to the next play for North Carolina too.

"Nobody should have given us the trophy after we beat Arizona [Jan. 27], and nobody's going to stop us from playing basketball just because we got our tails kicked," Williams said after the N.C. State loss.

By the way, he planned to be at the women's game Thursday in a sold-out Carmichael Auditorium on the Carolina campus.

"It's here at our place, which is good, because I don't think I'd be going if it was over there," he said.

Loyola, at long last

Loyola Marymount's difficult season got a big lift Monday with its 67-61 win over Gonzaga, its first over the Bulldogs since 2003.

The Lions lost eight games in a row earlier this season after leading scorer Brandon Worthy suffered a season-ending knee injury, and they had to play without forward Matthew Knight for a stretch because of a less-serious knee injury.

Now the 11-14 Lions have won three of their last four, with victories over the two teams tied atop the West Coast Conference standings, Gonzaga and Santa Clara.

"We just went through a little rough patch," said senior John Montgomery, who has taken over at point guard during the resurgence and is the son of former Stanford and Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery.

"We couldn't continue to lose forever. We did some soul-searching and got some confidence," Montgomery said.

Coach Rodney Tention kept telling his players they weren't far away but needed to be more patient offensively.

"We showed [that] our shooting percentage, when we made three or four passes, was in the high 60-70% range," he said. "When we made two passes, we weren't getting it done. They saw the numbers, they watched the tape, and started to see what we were talking about."

Monday night's victory was big but not as big as Loyola Marymount's near-upset of Gonzaga in last year's WCC tournament final would have been.

The Lions were a layup from their first NCAA appearance since 1990 when center Chris Ayer -- now playing professionally in Japan -- missed a point-blank shot in the frantic final seconds.

"Nothing was said about that game," Montgomery said. "But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about it. This was my ninth time playing Gonzaga, and I hadn't beaten them.

"It was a big win for us."

Dick Davey tribute

The news that longtime Santa Clara Coach Dick Davey is retiring at the end of the season surprised a lot of people -- perhaps even Davey.

Bay Area newspapers cited sources saying Davey, 64, was pushed by university administration to make a decision about retiring even though he is in the middle of a promising season with a 17-7 record.

Davey has had plenty of success in 30 seasons at the school, the last 15 as head coach. But he will be best remembered for 1993, when 15th-seeded Santa Clara pulled off a huge NCAA tournament upset over second-seeded Arizona.

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