Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

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Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

For many college basketball programs, previous encounters with Duke invoke painful or at least losing memories. Quite the opposite for Virginia Commonwealth - and now the program's current roster has its own opportunity to add a "we beat Duke" chapter to the school's history.

Following Friday's win over No. 19 Memphis, VCU (3-1) faces the fifth ranked Blue Devils (4-0) in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. Giving Duke's ranking and prestige, this game has the illusion of David vs. Goliath to the uninitiated, but quite the opposite to those aware of previous events.

Over the last two seasons, the Shaka Smart-coached Rams have reached the NCAA Tournament's Final Four and the third round this past March. Since winning the National Championship in 2010, Duke bowed out in the round of 16 in 2011 and last year dropped its opening game against Lehigh.

Last season's loss was the Blue Devils earliest exit since 2007, the year VCU stunned Duke 79-77 for the program's first NCAA Tournament win in 22 seasons. Current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor scored 22 points that day five seasons ago in VCU's only meeting against Duke. His free throw line jumper with a second remaining propelled the Rams to what at the time was the biggest win in the program's history.

In the next battle with Duke, once again it will be VCU's backcourt leading the way. To call the Rams up-tempo would not accurately describe the rapid pace Smart choreographs for his squad, especially on defense. Spearheaded by guards Treveon Graham, Darius Theus, Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg, VCU's relentless pressure forced 22 turnovers against Memphis, leading to 33 points.

Graham leads the Rams in scoring with 14.5 points, just ahead forward Juvonte Reddic (14.3), the team's top post option. Weber and Theus combine for 5.5 steals per game while the Rams average 9.75 3-pointers per game.

Even though Duke has perimeter threats of its own, including sharpshooter Seth Curry (18.3 ppg), VCU would be wise to keep the tempo moving considering the Blue Devils' interior power. 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee is averaging 21.3 points while shooting a staggering 71.4 percent from the field. Mason Plumlee. The senior dominated with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's 89-71 win over Minnesota.

The challenge is not lost on Smart, who will battle coaching wits with Duke's famed leader Mike Krzyzewski for the first time.

"Playing Duke, what an incredible opportunity,'' Smart told the Associated Press "We'll be facing arguably the best program in the nation and with no argument the best coach in the modern era.

"But we won't fold up to the test.''

Maryland women's lacrosse beats Boston College in championship

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Maryland women's lacrosse beats Boston College in championship

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After a sporadic first half, top-seeded Maryland did what it normally does.

A 5-5 halftime tie was a 10-5 Maryland lead just 4:26 into the second half, and the Terrapins held on to beat Boston College 16-13 on Sunday in the NCAA women's lacrosse championship game.

"We struggled shooting in the first half," coach Cathy Reese said. "We came out in the second half on fire. Give these guys all the credit. They played hard. They played their hearts out."

Caroline Steele had six goals and an assist, Taylor Hensh scored three times, and the Terps capped an unbeaten season with their 13th NCAA title. Jen Giles, Megan Whittle and Kali Hartshorn each had two goals and an assist for the Terrapins (23-0).

Maryland played in its fifth straight final and won its third title in four years. The only NCAA tournament loss during that span came in last year's championship game, when North Carolina knocked off the two-time defending champ Terrapins 13-7.

"Three for four isn't too shabby. Finishing up your senior season undefeated is pretty awesome," said Zoe Stukenberg, who had three assists in her final game with the Terps.

The heavily favored Terps scored 10 seconds into the game, They racked up those five quick goals in the second half, but Boston College kept it from becoming a runaway.

"We were a little shook up again in the first half," Boston College coach Acacia Walker said. "They're just so smart. They just tuned in and did what they needed to do. Every person did their job and we just sort of plugged away."

Kenzie Kent had five goals and five assists for Boston College, which reached the championship game for the first time. Sam Apuzzo scored four goals for the Eagles, giving her 80 for the season.

Although Maryland never trailed, the Terps were pushed by the Eagles, who battled back from an early 5-2 deficit.

After being shut out for the last 16:11 of the first half, the Terps stormed out of halftime to regain command. Whittle started it with a goal 19 seconds in, then Steele struck for two 1:18 apart to get the Terps comfortably on top again.

"Caroline played great. She was on fire," Stukenberg said. "We needed her. Nobody else was and she stepped up when we needed her. It was unbelievable."

Kent kept Boston College close with three straight goals to cut the margin to 11-9, then assisted on Dempsey Aresenault's goal with 14 minutes left to get the Eagles back within a goal.

"I think it gives negative mojo to your team if you think of how many goals you're down," Kent said. "Instead, we take it play by play and I think that's what got us out of that hole."

Caroline Wannen scored for Maryland with 12:04 left to start the Terps on another scoring surge. Hensh put Maryland up 13-10, then, after Kent's fifth goal of the game, the Terps picked up three more goals by Kali Hartshorn, Steele and Hensh with 4:07 left to all but seal another title for Maryland.

Apuzzo added a pair of late goals for the Eagles.

Hartshorn put Maryland up 1-0 10 seconds in. Hensh made it 2-0 1:42 later when she plucked her rebound out of the air and swept it in behind BC goalie Zoe Ochoa. Apuzzo answered with two goals for BC to set the back-and-forth tone that would last until the final few minutes.

Maryland holds on to beat Denver, advance to national title game

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Maryland holds on to beat Denver, advance to national title game

The Maryland men’s lacrosse team is returning to the national championship game for a third straight year.

The Terrapins held on to beat Denver, 9-8, in the national semifinals Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Maryland’s Connor Kelly scored the go-ahead goal with 8:41 to go and the Terps defense held tight to preserve the victory.

Kelly scored three goals to pace Maryland on offense. The Terps led 4-1 in the first half and 5-3 at halftime before Denver tied it up at 8-8 with 10 minutes remaining ahead of what proved to be the game winner.

In the final two minutes, both teams had goals waved off because of crease violations – one from Maryland's Colin Heacock with 1:28 remaining and a second from Denver's Connor Donahue with 9.2 seconds left.

Maryland will now play Ohio State in the national championship game at 1 p.m. ET Monday. The Buckeyes beat Towson, 11-10, in the earlier semifinal Saturday.

For the Terps, the game will mark their 14th national title game appearance, though they haven’t won it since 1975. Since then, Maryland has finished as runner-ups nine straight times (1976, 1979, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), including four times in the past six years.

The Terps fell 10-5 to Denver (2015) and 14-13 in overtime to North Carolina (2016) in the last two national title games.

In addition to the 1975 title, Maryland also won it in 1973. They also finished as runner-ups in 1971 and 1974.

The Maryland women’s lacrosse team will be playing in their own national championship game Sunday, against Boston College. The Terps beat Penn State, 20-10, Friday night, and Boston College rallied to beat Navy, 16-15.

The Maryland women’s team has won 12 national championships, most recently in both 2014 and 2015.