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Clemson, UNC Asheville advance

Jerai Grant scored a career-best 22 points and fast-starting Clemson built a double-figure lead and never backed off in beating Alabama-Birmingham, 70-52, in an NCAA First Four game at the University of Dayton Arena on Tuesday.

In a matchup of No. 12 seeds, the Tigers (22-11) went on a 21-2 run in the first half and never let the big lead slip away, as they had in several recent games.

Clemson hurried out after the game to catch a flight to a second-round game against fifth-seeded West Virginia (20-11) on Thursday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.

Milton Jennings added 11 points and Tanner Smith and Devin Booker each had 10 for Clemson, picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Jamarr Sanders had 19 and Dexter Fields 12 for UAB, regular-season champions of Conference USA.


>Bulldogs take a step

DAYTON, Ohio -- Matt Dickey and the Bulldogs were quite an opening act on the NCAA Tournament's expanded stage, one that has more teams in the brackets and -- so far -- the same March drama on the court.

Dickey led a late run that brought overtime, and J.P. Primm hit five free throws and had a decisive steal in the closing seconds, sending UNC Asheville to an 81-77 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in a dramatic "First Four" opener.

"I'll tell you what, I couldn't be happier with the city of Dayton," coach Eddie Biedenbach said.

There wasn't time for a curtain call. The Bulldogs (20-13) quickly headed to the airport for a charter flight to Washington, D.C., where they'll play Pittsburgh -- the Southeast's top seed -- on Thursday. The Bulldogs had never flown a charter before this week, and joked they felt "presidential" on their trip to Dayton.

UNC Asheville pulled it out with a tournament-worthy performance by its best player. The Bulldogs led for only 51 seconds in regulation, before Dickey asserted himself. He scored 14 of the Bulldogs' last 18 points in regulation, including a 3 with 10.5 seconds to go that tied it.


>Today's NCAA games

Texas-San Antonio will face Alabama State in the first of two first-round games that will be played in Dayton (6:30 p.m., TruTV). Alabama State (17-17) is the only team in the field to not have a winning record.

In the second game, Virginia Commonwealth will play Southern California (9 p.m., TruTV). Kevin O'Neill will be back on the Southern California bench tonight after he was suspended during the Pac-10 Tournament.

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