- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Nobody commands a room like Bobby Knight.

The winningest coach in college hoops history (890 victories) sauntered to the NCAA tournament podium in Joel Coliseum yesterday and immediately hijacked the pretournament interview, again cementing the Texas Tech mentor’s reputation as one of the game’s most intriguing personalities.

In his last visit to Winston-Salem, Knight’s 1997 Indiana team dropped its NCAA tournament opener in ugly fashion to Colorado (80-62). Yesterday, a local TV personality made the mistake of referencing that visit and the fact that Knight walked back to the team hotel through the rain that night to avoid the local media.

“I’ve walked back to hotels from so many arenas and so many games in my lifetime that one night is no different than another,” said Knight, warming to one of his vintage browbeatings. “I can hardly remember what I did yesterday, let alone 10 years ago. … I like the walk. You don’t have a law in North Carolina against yankees walking do you?”

Gladly accepting rain

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Outside of HSBC Arena, it was a foggy, dreary, soupy mess that belied the NCAA tournament subregional arriving in town.

It was a long way from the suddenly warm temperatures the Maryland basketball team would enjoy back home this week. Then again, the fourth-seeded Terrapins (24-8) have had their fill of College Park in mid-March the last two seasons.

“I’d rather be here in wet, sloppy and 10 degrees than Maryland right now because if we were in Maryland right now that would mean we lost,” center Will Bowers said. “We’d rather be here.”

There are still some pursuits for the Terps in addition to preparing for their Midwest Region opener against Davidson (29-4) this afternoon. Bowers said the first thing he did when he arrived at the team hotel was to order buffalo wings from room service.

There are other concerns for the Terps, notably facing a strong rebounding team that has only lost once since the beginning of December. Davidson has become a chic upset pick among some analysts, who point to the Wildcats’ fundamentally strong play and Maryland’s poor showing against Miami in last week’s ACC tournament.

“At this point, it doesn’t matter what people say,” guard Grevis Vasquez said. “We’re already in the tournament. So why would I care what people are going to say right now when I’ve been playing for the whole season? It’s about being mentally tough and being ready. There’s going to be a lot of emotions tomorrow.”

Henderson returns

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Duke, the No. 6 seed in the West Region, will have guard Gerald Henderson back for its game with No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth tonight.

Henderson was suspended for the Blue Devils’ ACC tournament loss to N.C. State after he was ejected for elbowing North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough’s face in Duke’s regular season finale. Henderson called Hansbrough last week to apologize for the hit, which resulted in a broken nose for Hansbrough.

“I’ve seen it on TV, no more than anyone else,” Henderson said. “I’ve really put it behind me. It was an unfortunate incident, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. The NCAA tournament is my focus.”

There’s an interesting twist for Henderson in tonight’s game against the Rams (27-6). His father, former NBA player Gerald Henderson Sr., played at Virginia Commonwealth in the 1970s.

“He was very excited when he heard we were playing them,” Henderson said. “He said, ‘Good luck, but I heard they’re known to have some good guards over at VCU, so better D up.’ ”

Happy as underdogs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — George Washington (23-8) is in the NCAA tournament for the third straight season. Vanderbilt hasn’t been in the field since 2004. But the Commodores (20-11) are 3½-point favorites, and that’s just fine with GW senior forward Dokun Akingbade.

“We like to be the underdog; nobody’s really talking about us right now,” said Akingbade, who leads GW in rebounding (5.5) and field goal percentage (.552). “We are just going to try and come out and play our time of basketball and hope for the best.

“As you said, Vanderbilt hasn’t been here in recent years, and a lot of people counted us out this year, and we made a late run and won our conference championship. But we are the underdogs, and we’re just going to come out and do what we can to win the game.”

Said senior guard Carl Elliott, the Colonials’ assist leader and tri-captain: “I think us being underdogs … we’re going to use that basically as fuel to get us going. We’re going to go out and play a loose basketball game and stick to what we do, like Dokun said. We’re just going to come out and play our game.”

Patrick Stevens is reporting from Buffalo; Barker Davis is reporting from Winston-Salem; James Raia is reporting from Sacramento.

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