- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - About an hour before his team was to play its first game in the NCAA tournament for a 22nd time, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun was making small talk in the coaches’ locker room in the Verizon Center.

“How many close ones already?” he asked.

When he was told four of Thursday’s first eight second-round games were decided by one or two points, he smiled the uneasy smile a veteran coach is allowed to make at hearing that.

“There are always so many close ones early,” he said. “Those are the games the good teams learn to win over a season. Those are the games some teams, even pretty good ones, just never learn to win.”

Calhoun’s Huskies had no trouble with their first game, beating Bucknell 81-52.

Thursday didn’t come close to being an easy day for some others.

Those four early games included the day’s biggest upset, 13th-seeded Morehead State over fourth-seeded Louisville, 62-61; the day’s biggest near upset, fourth-seeded Kentucky beating 13th-seeded Princeton 59-57; seventh-seeded Temple’s 66-64 win over Penn State on an off-balance jumper with less than a second to play; and one that should have been that close, eighth-seeded Butler beating Old Dominion 60-58 on a tip-in at the buzzer.

In the later games the close ones were No. 12 Richmond over No. 5 Vanderbilt 69-66, and No. 7 UCLA beating No. 10 Michigan State 78-76.

All but one of the 68 teams in the field will end the season with a loss. Some are a lot tougher to take because of the circumstances or the players involved or both.

“This is as tough a loss as I’ve had in coaching, and I’ve been coaching a long time, after tonight maybe too long,” said Louisville’s Rick Pitino, who has won a national championship (Kentucky, 1996) and taken three different schools to the Final Four. “I feel terrible for our guys because they were just a wonderful group to coach.”

Morehead State’s Demonte Harper hit a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left and Eagles center Kenneth Faried blocked Mike Marra’s attempt from the corner to seal the win.

“I don’t feel lucky,” Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said. “Certainly some balls can bounce your way here or there. At times they bounced their way. So luck can be a tad bit of a factor. … I don’t think there was any luck involved. We were just very, very fortunate to make one more play than they did. That’s it. If Demonte doesn’t make the shot, they had made one more play than us up to that point.”

And Harper had practiced that shot just as thousands and thousands of kids do every day in a driveway, park or gym.

“I was actually telling them how to in the media timeout, you have the ball, you be like, ‘Five, four, three, two …,’” Harper said. “That’s funny you brought that up because I was thinking that exact same thing before I actually took the shot. Just came out. I believed in myself and my teammates, and coaching staff as well, to put the ball in my hands for me to take those type of shots.”

Temple’s Juan Fernandez hit the game-winner for the Owls, an off-balance shot off one foot.

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