Lehigh stuns second-seeded Duke 75-70 to advance

By Steve Reed

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 17 2012 1:35 a.m. MDT

Lehigh senior Kyle Forrest, left, celebrates with fellow students after Lehigh defeated Duke 75-70 in an NCAA tournament college basketball game on Friday, March 16, 2012, at Molly’s Irish Pub and Sports Bar in Bethlehem, Pa.

The Express-Times, Matt Smith, Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Superstitious?

The Duke Blue Devils might be after Friday night.

Duke had never lost an NCAA tournament game at the Greensboro Coliseum, winning all 12 previous contests — the best record of any team at a site in tournament history.

Who would have thought their 13th appearance would be so unlucky?

The 15th-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks pulled off a monumental upset by stunning the second-seeded Blue Devils 75-70 behind a 30-point effort by Patriot League player of the year C.J. McCollum.

It was the only the second time Duke has lost in the opening-round game in the last 16 years, the other defeat coming in 2007 when they lost to VCU as the sixth seed.

Lehigh (27-7) will face 10th-seeded Xavier (22-12), which erased a double-digit halftime lead to knock off seventh-seeded Notre Dame 67-63 in a game that included a bizarre finish when an official flagged an Irish player for a violation on a free throw with 2.8 seconds left.

The other game Sunday in Greensboro pits top-seeded North Carolina (30-5) and eighth-seeded Creighton (29-5) in the Midwest Regional. The Tar Heels improved to 30-1 overall in tournament games in their home state, cruising past Vermont 77-58 despite playing without junior John Henson. The dramatic wins by Lehigh and Xavier overshadowed Creighton's first NCAA tournament win in 10 years as the Bluejays held on to beat Alabama 58-57 in a nail-biter.

But Lehigh was the story of the day.

It was the school's first ever NCAA tournament win and only the third ever for the Patriot League. Bucknell previously won opening-round games in 2005 and 2006.

"It means a lot as a team, a family and as the Patriot League in general," said McCollum, who came into the game as the nation's fifth-leading scorer at 21.9 points per game. "We wanted to come out here and protect this team and this family, get the win and we did that tonight."

Lehigh forward John Adams said it was a matter of believing in each other.

"We saw on the selection show we had Duke and we thought we could match up very well against them," Adams said. "We all believed it and we showed it on the floor. Everybody bought into that idea that we could beat them. The rest is history."

History indeed.

The Mountain Hawks are the sixth 15 seed overall to pull off the trick, but the second on a crazy Friday. Norfolk State edged Missouri 86-84 in the West Regional earlier in the day.

"They had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He's been their player of the year, and he's really one of the outstanding players in the country. You could see why tonight."

Duke didn't do much to help itself, hitting just 6 of 26 shots from 3-point range.

Lehigh (27-7) led most of the game, drawing support from North Carolina fans who borrowed brown signs from Mountain Hawks supporters that read "Go Lehigh" to root against their rivals. Many Tar Heels fans came back after the team's afternoon win just to cheer against Duke.

"I've never seen anything like it," Lehigh forward Justin Maneri said with a deep laugh. "We came to the practice the other day and as soon as you walked in they were going crazy for us and we're like, 'What's going on?' They were like, 'Go Lehigh, beat Duke!' They were screaming. It was nice to have fans here that weren't Duke. I've never seen two schools that hate each other so much."

Lehigh coach Brett Reed said before the game his team came to Greensboro to do more than just compete — and that's exactly what it did.

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