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Sports

Hampton unfazed by tournament's top seed
Pirates draw No. 1 Duke Friday in NCAA opener
 
Published Monday, March 14, 2011 11:12 am
by Herbert L. White

Hampton’s playing David to Duke’s Goliath in the NCAA tournament Friday in Charlotte.

The No. 16 seed Pirates, who won the MEAC championship with a 60-55 win against Morgan State in Winston-Salem, will take on the top-seeded Blue Devils in the West Regional at 3 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Arena. The game will be broadcast on truTV.

The Pirates’ high-water mark in Division I came in the 2001 tournament when they upset No. 2 seed Iowa State 58-57 in the opening round, making them the second MEAC team to do so.

“We're excited for the opportunity, and it marks a chance for our program to do something special,” said Pirates head coach Ed Joyner Jr., a 1993 Johnson C. Smith graduate and former Golden Bulls assistant under his uncle, Steve Joyner. “It's been 10 years since we last made history, and we want to put that stamp on our program and show the world what we're capable of.”

The Pirates are appearing in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time, their first since 2006 when they lost to Monmouth 71-49 in the opening round. Hampton is led by a pair of junior guards: Darrion Pellum, an all-MEAC first-team pick who was named the league’s tournament most outstanding player and Kwame Morgan, who was named to the all-tournament team. Pellum averages 17.5 points per game, while Morgan averages 16.5. Forward Charles Funches is the top rebounder (7.8 per game) while averaging 10.7 points an outing.

Duke (30-4), last year’s national champion, won the ACC tournament title by knocking off North Carolina. The Blue Devils are led by ACC player of the year Nolan Smith, a senior guard who averages 21.3 points per game. Another senior, forward Kyle Singler, is an all-ACC first team pick who averages 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.  Sophomore forward Mason Plumlee is the Blue Devils’ top rebounder at 8.5 per contest.

Hampton, which has won nine of its last 12 games, has never played Duke and is 1-13 all-time against ACC teams, but Joyner is undaunted by the odds of pulling off a monumental upset on Friday. No 16 seed has ever advanced in the NCAA tournament.

 “We've got a 50-50 shot of winning this game,” Joyner said after learning the Pirates’ assignment. “Ten years ago today. Ten years ago today. If you don’t know it, look it up.”

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