- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | UCLA survived the nightcap at Wachovia Center, edging Virginia Commonwealth 65-64 when Colonial Athletic Association player of the year Eric Maynor came up just short on a contested 14-foot jumper at the buzzer.

UCLA (26-8), the No. 6 seed in the East Region, led throughout and claimed a 55-44 advantage on a jumper from Jrue Holiday with 8:14 remaining. But the 11th-seeded Rams (24-10) battled back behind Maynor (21 points, seven assists).

With UCLA defensive stopper Darren Collison forced to play tentatively on Maynor down the stretch, the Rams clawed back and trimmed the Bruins’ lead to the final score on a pair of free throws from Maynor with 48 seconds remaining.

VCU center Larry Sanders then blocked Collison’s slash to the hoop, giving the Rams possession with 11.6 remaining and setting up the final sequence.

The victory improves the stellar NCAA tournament record of UCLA coach Ben Howland to 18-7.

No. 7 TEXAS 76, No. 10 MINNESOTA 62: Once A.J. Abrams found his shot, Texas was ready to leave its recent struggles behind and move on in the NCAA tournament.

Abrams hit eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points to help the Longhorns (23-11) beat the Golden Gophers (22-11) in the first round in Greensboro, N.C.

Damion James added 18 points and nine rebounds for Texas, which hit 11 of 20 3s overall to win its tournament opener for the fifth time in six seasons. Texas had lost seven of its last 14 games dating to late January.

Lawrence Westbrook scored 19 points for Minnesota, which was making its first tournament appearance since 2005. It also was Minnesota’s first NCAA bid under Tubby Smith, who left Kentucky two seasons ago to rebuild the struggling Big Ten program.

Minnesota got off to its best start in more than 30 years at 16-1 but closed the year by losing 10 of 16.

The Gophers got the start they wanted, jumping to a 10-point lead in the opening 3 1/2 minutes, but the Longhorns hung around until Abrams found his range and turned the game into an impressive shooting display.

He finished 9-for-19 from the field and 8-for-15 from behind the arc, which was one shy of his career high for made 3s. He missed three of his first four deep tries but started finding his range late in the first half before getting free on a screen from Connor Atchley and burying a 3 just before the horn to make it 39-35 at halftime.

That turned out to be the first of six in a row, including a run of 3s on four straight possessions. After making the first two, Abrams fooled Blake Hoffarber into going airborne with a pump fake, then took a dribble to his right and coolly buried the 3 from right in front of the Texas bench. Then, after a pair of missed shots by Minnesota, Abrams took a pass and launched another one over Devron Bostick that swished cleanly through the net.

The last one pushed Texas’ lead to 59-44 with 10:57 to play. Minnesota didn’t get closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

No. 2 DUKE 86, No. 15 BINGHAMTON 62: The Blue Devils (29-6) used a balanced offense with six players in double figures to easily handle the Bearcats (23-9) in Greensboro.

Jon Scheyer was tops for Duke with 15 points and Lance Thomas added 14.

D.J. Rivera led Binghamton, making its first NCAA appearance, with 20 points.

It was quite the emphatic reversal of results for a program that entered having lost three of its last four NCAA tournament games - and needed some dramatic play late to take care of 15th-seeded Belmont in the first round last year.

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