LIVE BLOG: Duke 70, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39 2:41 2nd Half

EPILOGUE: Even in Jacksonville, Duke fans continue to jump around to the sound of Cascada—even if they are the only one's in their section participating. An interesting sight ot say the least.

Duke 70, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39 2:41 2nd Half: As action resumes, the arena is actually now more full than it was at the beginning of the game, probably anticipation of the Louisville-California matchup to follow that will likely be a much more competitive matchup than this one. Duke starts to go into slow-down mode, an extend their possession twice with offensive rebounds off of threes, including one very impressive one by Ryan Kelly. All that leads to a possession that takes at least a minute off the clock, as well as a Kyle Singler trey. And it's more of the same by Singler on the next possession, giving Singler 22 poitns on the night and extending Duke's lead to a game high 27.

Kelly has played solidly in garbage time here with a couple of nice rebounds, and then a solid pass into Thomas in the post, who uses a nice spin-move to score two more. After another turnover by the golden lions, both Plumlees and Dawkins enter the lineup, leaving Scheyer and Smith as the only Blue Devil starters left in the game. Smith makes an easy floater to extend the lead to 29, and Jordan Davidson prepares to check in for the first time, all but signaling the end of this as a highly-contested game.

With under four minutes to go and Duke well in control, we're going to call it a night from The Chronicle Sports Blog. Check back here tonight for some quotes and reaction from this contest, and be sure to go to tomorrow morning to read my full game story.

Insert Johnson!

Duke 58, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 37 7:22 2nd Half: The general disinterest from the Blue Devils is starting to seep onto the court, as Miles Plumlee misses two free throws out of the timeout and Allen Smith hits a three on the other end, followed by an uncharacteristic Scheyer turnover leading to another fastbreak bucket. All of a sudden, Duke's lead is down to a much less comfortable 20.

Andre Dawkins does his best to answer on the offensive end, just missing a contested three and being called for another charge after aggressively taking the ball to the rim. Even though the results haven't necessarily been there for the freshman guard, his increased confidence after a fine ACC Tournament is conspicuous here in the 1st Round, which can only be a good sign for the Blue Devils.

The lethargic play on the court is translating into the crowd, as the biggest cheer this whole half just occurred when an elderly fan just barely was able to pass the ball back onto the court after it was deflected into his lap. As the teams seem to continue trading turnovers, Weathers finally breaks the streak with a three, cutting the lead down to 21. Lance Thomas responds by traveling while attempting a turn-around move in the post, and another media-timeout is called.

Duke 53, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 28 11:02 2nd Half: Arkansas Pine-Bluff comes out of the timeout strong, as Washington takes the ball to the hole and draws an and-one foul from Zoubek, although he misses the subsequent free throw. Sloppy play continues for Duke on the offensive end, as Kyle Singler gets caught in mid-air with no one to pass to, and turns the ball over on the travel.

Nolan Smith gets Duke back on the right track on the next possession, though, pump faking two defenders into the air before putting in an easy layup. The next time down the court, though, Smith seemed to trick himself with his dribble moves, as the junior fell to the floor and seemed to clutch his knee for a brief moment.  However, Smith has stayed in the game and seems healthy on the defensive end, skying for a rebound on the next possession, leading to a Jon Scheyer jumper from the corner that is all net.

After yet another Golden Lion turnover, Mason Plumlee skies to the basket—and is anticlimactically fouled, sending him to the line for two shots. The freshman makes one of two for his first career point in the NCAA Tournament.

The game continues to go back and forth, though, as a fastbreak layup by Townshend is answered by an open three from Scheyer. As we head into the media timeout, Duke has its largest lead of the game at 25 points.

Duke 45, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 22 15:50 2nd Half: The Golden Lions start off the second half shooting as coldly as they did in the first, with Smith clanking a wide-open three, followed by an airballed layup by Barnett. Lance Thomas scores Duke's first points of the half off of a nice cut (and a goaltending call), putting Duke up 21 points early in this half.

As the action goes back and forth, the game is quickly dissolving into a sloppy affair, as the Golden Lions continue to turn the ball over at an astounding rate, but now Duke is beginning to do the same. Still, the Blue Devils are able to stretch their lead to its largest of the game—23 points—after Zoubek puts back a missed Singler layup before the media-timeout.

Duke 39, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 20 20:00 2nd Half: As the second half is about to begin, some stats of note: Duke is shooting 44 percent from the field compared to Arkansas-Pine Bluff's 25 percent; Duke has shot 20 free throws to Arkansas-PB's six; Duke has out-rebounded Arkansas-PB 20-11; and Arkansas-Pine Bluff has 10 turnovers to Duke's five.  In short, it has been domination for the Blue Devils thus far.

Duke 39, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 20 0:00 1st Half: Even if the Golden Lions haven't been all that impressive on the basketball court, their band is certainly picking up the slack—bravo, fellas. But the Golden Lions aren't able to capitalize on any inspiration from the band, as Singler quickly scores on the inbounds play, and Lance Thomas draws a charge on the defensive end. As Duke tries to break the press, 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek sets a pick on 5-10 Allen Smith—a humorous image if I've ever seen one.

Duke easily breaks the press, and Thomas gets the ball in the post and draws yet another foul. Thomas is having one of his best offensive games as a Blue Devil, as the two free throws now give him eight poitns in the first half of this contest, second only to Singler's 11.

Duke regains possession after a nice hustle play by Smith, even though it prompted some boos from the upset-hungry crowd over the possibility of a foul. duke gets the ball back to Thomas in the post, and a solid post-move from the senior just rims out. Duke remains solid on D, though, after a Zoubek block leads to another turnover for the Golden Lions.

Coach K once said in a press conference that Brian Zoubek "can't jump", but someone may need to remind Nolan Smith. Perhaps thinking Zoubek was one of the Plumlee brothers, Smith tried to set the senior up for an alley-oop jam, but a surprised Zoubek was unable to corral the high pass. A nice attempt, nonetheless.

After the Golden Lions are able to sink a few free-throws, Singler draws another foul downlow off of two nice passes from Zoubek and Smith. Singler came up clutching his eye, indicating he might be hurt or bleeding, but he goes to the line regardless. He sinks the first, Coach K calls his first half timeout (presumably to check on his star), and then Singler returns to sink the second free-throw before Ryan Kelly gives the junior a rest.

Kelly is quickly exposed on the defensive end by a driving Hugh Barnett, but the Golden Lions are unable to capitalize on the open kick-out jumper, and Miles Plumlee skies for the rebound. After a nice pass by Kelly to Thomas downlow, the senior will go to the line again. Thomas misses his first two free throws of the night, but the subsequent Duke press forces Arkansas- Pine Bluff to burn their third timeout of the half to try to set up their final possession.

In other news, this blog is now nearly 2300 words, and we still have a half to go—whose having fun out there, folks?

The final possession of the first half is much like every other for the Golden Lions, as sloppy play leads to a loose ball, a turnover, and a missed opportunity. Duke heads into the break up 19, and assumedly very happy with their effort thus far.  More to come after the half.

Duke 33, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 18 3:43 1st Half: Don't tell the Blue Devils mascot that Duke is already up 14 in this contest—he is now making the rounds to young Duke fans in the crowd, taking pictures and exhibiting his usual intensity. The two young fans sitting directly behind me certainly seem happy after his visit.

Duke comes out of the timeout lacking the intensity of its mascot, though, throwing the ball out of bounds in an attempt to break the press. That ambivalent attitude doesn't last long though, as Singler dives on the floor for a loose ball to force a jump ball, and then an Arkansas-PB player dribbles the ball out of bounds, turning the ball over to Duke once again. The Golden Lions now have five turnovers, and if air-balls were counted that stat would be significantly higher.

Smith sinks two free-throws on the offensive end, stretching Duke's lead to 16. Dominick Moore airballs another three pointer for the Golden Lions, but in the ensuing mayhem Arkansas-PB retains possession— only to miss another ill-advised three. A surprisingly easy put-back by Singler, giving him nine points in the first half, stretches Duke's lead to 18, but that lead is short-lived as Tavaris Washington hits an and-one over Miles Plumlee, prompting Associate Head Coach Chris Collins to remind the sophomore to play defense "side-to-side."

In a familiar site for Duke fans, a nice-looking drive by Mason Plumlee doesn't find its way into the net, and neither does his athletic put-back attempt. The Golden Lions answer with another and-one on the offensive end, as Dawkins commits the cardinal sin of fouling a jump shooter. The crowd gives its loudest cheer of the night, seeing a possible upset brewing. Hoping to gain momentum, the Golden Eagles turn on the full-court press, but the decision quickly backfires as Scheyer makes a wide-open three point jumper.

As Zoubek and Thomas reenter the game, one would have to think Duke's defensive intensity would improve—and one would be right. Thomas and Zoubek proceed to trap an Arkansas-Pine Bluff driver, forcing him to travel and giving Duke back the ball. A questionable foul call sends Smith to the line on the bonus, and he calmly sinks both shots for his third and fourth points of the night.

Townshend, though, continues to provide a spark off the bench for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, making a pretty layup after absorbing some contact from Zoubek to cut the lead back down to 15. While a 15 point margin is certainly nothing to laugh at, it is interesting to note Duke's inability to truly blow this 1-16 matchup open, thanks to increased intensity from the Golden Lions.

Duke 24, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 10 7:49 1st Half: Zoubek steps to the line after the break, and sinks one of two. Savalance Townshend finally sinks a three for the Golden Lions (what a name, no?), and a Duke turnover gives Arkansas-Pb the ball back as the Plumlees and Scheyer reenter the game. Mason immediately makes an impact too, blocking a long Golden Eagle jumper.

Duke certainly has done a solid job taking the ball to the rim, and are already in the bonus as a result. Singler takes advantage, sinking two free throws—the junior now leads the game with seven points. the Blue Devils may be getting slightly overconfident though, if an ill-advised one-on-one Nolan Smith layup attempt on a 3-on-1 break is any indication.  Still, Duke's defense does not relent, forcing the Golden Eagles to turn the ball over on the subsequent possession, leading us into another media-timeous.

Duke 21, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7 9:36 1st Half: As action resumes, the Arkansas-PB cheerleaders start to chant "Let's Go Lions"—which, as someone from the city of Detroit, I find moderately offensive.  Why must they bring up memories that hurt a Detroit Lions fan so, why?

Duke's defense remains stiflying, as the Golden Lions put up another airbal, and Singler takes it to the rack in transition and buys another trip to the line. Singler makes one of two, and Nolan Smith reenters the game to give Singler a breather. An interesting three guard lineup in now for Duke, with Scheyer, Smitha, dnd Awkins all in.

On the defensive side, Duke remains dominant, as Mason Plumlee rejects an errant Arkansas-PB shot and Scheyer runs down the rebound.  Andre Dawkins then takes it to the rack in transition, and gets bailed out of a questionable shot selection with a foul call. Dawkins only makes one of two, but regardless of the results it must be a good sight for duke fans to see Dawkins taking it to the rack with confidence.  Indeed, DAwkins does so again on the subsequent possession, but after getting to the rim is called for a charge.

The Golden Eagles finally end their streak of cold shooting with a corner jumper from Weathers, but Miles Plumlee answers on the offensive end by putting back his own errant post-shot. Duke is out-rebounding the undersized Golden Eagles seven to three in the early going, and with the return of Zoubek, Singler, and Thomas, they are now only more overmatched down low.

The Golden Lions seemed to have stepped up the defensive intensity, trapping Nolan Smith out past the three point line, but they neglected to account for Smith's court vision, as the junior hit a wide-open Lance Thomas under the basket for an easy dunk.  Indeed, Duke seems to be getting their shots at will here early, as Singler gets a wide-open three followed by an easy put-back opportunity—but misses both.

Duke's defensive intensity, though, can't be questioned here early, as Zoubek forces his man to pick up his dribble and the Golden Lions call another timeout with 11:26 remaining. The timeout allows the Blue Devils to put freshman Ryan Kelly into the game for the first time to give Scheyer a breather. This gives Duke a tremendously tall lineup, with the 6-foot-8 Singler playing shooting guard and the 6-foot-10 Kelly at the small forward spot.

The timeout certainly didn't seem to energize the Golden Lions, as after another lackluster offensive possession Thomas is able to convert on an athletic layup after getting his man in the air with a pump fake. Interesting to see an opposition respecting Thomas' jump shot enough to bite on the pump fake, considering that was once a weakness of the forward's game.  And another Arkansas-PB shot that doesn't even hit the rim, Zoubek grabs an offensive rebound and will go to the line after the media-timeout.

Duke 13, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 5 15:39 1st Half: The Golden Eagles take over after the timeout, but the result is the same, as Tavaris Washington travels trying to take it to the basket.  Kyle Singler answers with a mid-range jumper on the offensive end, but Lebaron Weathers answers right back with a three.  If The Golden Eagles' center can shoot from the outside, that could create a mismatch for the slower Zoubek—but Zoubek seems to be creating a mismatch of his own downlow, schooling Weathers once again with that same turn-around hook shot, this time from a little farther away.

Arkansas-PB is stymied again on the offensive end, and once again Singler imposes his will on his shorter defender, taking in to the rack for an easy floater.  After a ticky-tack foul on the Golden Eagles extends a Duke posession, Scheyer sinks a three off of a touch pass from Zoubek off of the inbounds play, and Duke is quickly up eight.  Zoubek, though, is called for a questionable foul of his own the defensive end, sending Gavin Montgomery to the line in hsi first minutes off the bench.

On the offensive end, an offensive rebound by Lance Thomas leads to a trip to the line and two more points for the Blue Devils, and Duke makes its first substitutions of the game—sending in the Plumlee brothers and Andre Dawkins. Interesting to see Coach K use his bench so liberally so early in this contest—either he is very confident his team will easily win this game, or he is taking the media's *cough, cough* concern's about fatigue more seriously then we think.

Regardless, Duke is up eight at the first media-timeout, and the arena is starting to fill up a little more—it is now probably a bit more than half full, specially as some Louisville and Cal fans trickle into their seats.

Duke 2, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0 18:55 1st Half: And we're underway!  Zoubek easily wins the tip from the much shorter Arkansas-Pine Bluff center, and the tone is immediately set on the offensive side of the ball, as the play is run through Zoubek in the post who makes a pretty turn-around hook for two.  Duke's mild press then forces the Golden Lions to throw the ball right into the press, and Duke quickly takes over again.  Zoube, though, can't take advantage of his height a second time, missing an open-layup off the inbounds pass.

On the defensive end, Nolan Smith is hounding Arkansas-PB guard Terrence Calvin, forcing the senior to pick up his dribble and burn the team's first timeout of the contest.

Duke 0, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0 20:00 1st Half: As the starting lineups are introduced , the arena is still not even half full.  Still, I would say there is a 3-to-1 ratio of Duke fans to Arkansas-Pine Bluff fans, if the general color of the stands and the cheers during the starting lineups are any indication (I didn't even notice when the Golden Lions took the court since the cheer was so quiet).  Perhaps the second game of the night will be more full, if the amount of Louisville fans in my hotel is any indication (and assuming Blue Devils fans plan on staying to see Duke's possible second round opponent).

The Golden Lions are trying to get pumped up in some sort of circle dance—really, I'm not the best guy to describe such things.  Regardless, Duke's NCAA Tournament run is about to begin!

PREGAME: Welcome to lovely Jacksonville Veteran's Memorial Arena, everyone!  I'm here at the very corner of press row to bring you The Chronicle's Live Blog of the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament. (But not without hassle, mind you—my trip here involved my taxi getting in an accident, my press pass being under the wrong name, and having to pay an exorbitant amount for wireless internet access.)  Still, the environment here is pretty awesome—I was gently pushed aside by Brian Zoubek as the team entered the arena while I was trying to find my seat, and Jim Nantz just walked by and said hello to us lesser media-types.

As we approach gametime, the starters for Duke are as expected: Nolan SMith, Jon Scheyer, Lance THomas, Kyle Singler, and Brian Zoubek. The Golden Lions will counter with Allen Smith, Terrence Calvin, Tavaris Washington, George Davis, and Lebaron Weathers. Something to keep an eye on is Arkansas-Pine Bluff's lack of size– Weathers is the tallest of the starting lineup, standing at only 6-foot-8, and point guard Smith stands at only 5-10.

The stadium is not even half full, but there is a significant cheer as the Blue Devils take the court with less than five minutes before tip-off, and Duke fans crowded around the entrance to greet their beloved team.  Stick with The Chronicle's Sports Blog tonight for all the highlights and analysis from tonight's game.


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