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TIRED DUKE FINDS ENOUGH STRENGTH TO TRIP CAROLINA

The blowout never materialized.

Second-ranked Duke may have been favored by an obscene 17 1/2 points before Wednesday night's ACC showdown with North Carolina, but it looked tired throughout parts of an 89-77 victory over the 10th-ranked Tar Heels before a sellout crowd of 9,039 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"We're running on low batteries right now," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We need to give these kids a little bit of rest."

The Blue Devils' fatigue showed in the way they shot free throws, making just 17-of-28 from the line. It showed in their three-point shooting, hitting just 6-of-22 attempts. It showed in the way the taller, more physical Tar Heels outrebounded them, 43-32. It showed in the way they struggled to defend North Carolina's dazzling junior point guard Ed Cota, who used his exceptional penetration skills to score 20 points.

But Duke (20-1, 8-0), which had been pushed to the brink during Sunday's 92-88 OT victory against St. John's at the Garden, refused to crumble.

"People kept saying we were going to blow them out," Duke forward Chris Carrawell said. "This was a little too close for me. But we eventually wore them down."

Carrawell, who scored 14 points, played a key role when the Blue Devils turned it on to wipe out a 68-65 deficit with a 12-1 run. He scored on a slam dunk before picking off lazy passes on two other Carolina possessions. On the first breakaway, he was fouled and made one of two free throws. Then he capped his second breakaway chance with a slam dunk as Duke rolled to a 77-69 lead with 4:03 to play.

Terps go distance

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maybe Florida State should begin to focus on finishing third in the Atlantic Coast Conference, because Maryland and Duke appear to have the top two spots covered.

The fourth-ranked Terrapins put some more distance in the ACC standings between themselves and the Seminoles with a 107-87 victory.

Florida State came in trailing the second-place Terrapins by only one game, but the Seminoles left Cole Field House realizing there's a substantial difference between the two teams.

"That's a great team. We had a lot of confidence, but we ran into a better team," Florida State forward Damous Anderson said.

Obinna Ekezie scored 22 points, Steve Francis 21 and Maryland (19-2, 7-1) shot 62 percent to remain a game behind first-place Duke. The Terrapins have won six straight, all within the conference.

Ron Hale had 22 points and Terrell Baker 18 for Florida State (11-8, 5-3).

Huskers shuck slump

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Three weeks ago, Nebraska looked lost. Now the Cornhuskers are tied for second place in the Big 12, and it's easy to identify the power source.

"It's all Venson Hamilton," coach Danny Nee said after Nebraska beat No. 22 Kansas, 84-69, giving the Jayhawks consecutive losses for the first time in almost five years.

The Cornhuskers (13-7, 5-2 Big 12) have a five-game winning streak. Not bad for a team that dropped four of six after an 89-76 loss to Texas on Jan. 10.

The difference, Nee said, is Hamilton's improved play.

"A month ago, Venson goes 0-for-9 against Minnesota. Tonight, he's 8-of-14 from the floor with 12 rebounds," Nee said.

Kansas lost 71-63 to Missouri on Sunday, so Nebraska's victory marked the Jayhawks' first back-to-back defeats since a three-game losing streak in February 1994.

West Virginia wins shootout

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two freshmen. Two great performances. One thrilling finish.

West Virginia's Lionel Armstead and Marshall's J.R. VanHoose put an exclamation point on the finish of this annual matchup of cross-state rivals.

VanHoose scored six points in a 1:38 span of overtime to give the Herd (11-8) a seemingly safe five-point lead with a minute left, only to have Armstead hit two three-pointers in the final 39 seconds, one with two seconds left that gave the Mountaineers an 85-84 victory.

"I've been shooting well lately," Armstead said. "The play wasn't designed for me. They went to a zone, I got the ball and shot it."

Said VanHoose: "I am still speechless. It slipped through our hands. It wasn't anything we did and it wasn't anything they did. It just went wrong."

Around the rim

Mateen Cleaves scored 10 of his 16 points in the last 2:09, and Jason Klein sparked a second-half comeback with three three-pointers as No. 8 Michigan State (17-4, 6-1) beat No. 15 Ohio State (15-6, 5-3), 76-71, in the Big Ten. . . . Evan Eschmeyer had 17 points and 14 rebounds to become Northwestern's career rebounding leader as the Wildcats (12-5, 4-3) stunned No. 14 Purdue (15-6, 3-4) in the Big Ten, 54-50. . . . Sacramento State snapped its 34-game losing streak, three shy of the Division I record, with a 60-57 victory over Montana. It had been closing in on the Division I record of 37, set by The Citadel in 1954-55. . . . Anthony Walker scored 21 points, making five of six three-pointers, as Loyola of Maryland (7-11, 2-9 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) beat cold-shooting Marist, 81-69. Marist (11-7, 4-6) was hampered by 33 percent shooting in the first half.

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