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NCAA Tournament: Duke freshmen poised in first-round victory over Iona

Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue

Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils gets a shot off against the Iona Gaels during the game in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PPG Paints Arena on March 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Credit: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller

PITTSBURGH — Just as logic would suggest, jitters were a tangible concern in the NCAA Tournament mismatch between Duke, the superpower, and Iona, the 15th-seeded mid-major. What you wouldn’t expect was that Duke was the side worried most about being worried.

As polished and accomplished as the favorite’s freshmen are, they still were freshmen and The Big Dance is different from anything any of them ever had experienced. “You can get a little jittery, you can get a little bit tight. That’s what happens to people,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our guys didn’t do that today, which I’m really pleased about.”

Helped by its size advantage as well as its poise, Duke broke free late in the first half and broke away after halftime for an 89-67 victory and a date Saturday to play Rhode Island.

Iona did avoid the pitfall of smaller schools against No. 2 seeds in that it did not get overwhelmed from the start. The Gaels (20-14) managed to stay even, 19-19, through the first seven minutes. “They can shoot the ball,” Krzyzewski said.

But Duke (27-7) can do pretty much everything, and had no problem showing it. Freshman Marvin Bagley III had 22 points and seven rebounds and classmate Trevon Duval had 19 points and eight assists.

“I thought they did a great job, mostly because I thought they came out aggressive and confident,” senior teammate Grayson Allen said after his 16-point game. “I don’t think we were nervous or overanxious because of the tournament atmosphere.

“This was a game that if we didn’t come out like that, didn’t come out hard, we could have been down seven, eight points from the get-go because of how they scored the ball.”

Duval admitted having been “definitely a little bit nervous” but added, “Overall, I was just excited and I was ready to play.”

Bagley had a dunk and two layups and Duval hit a three-pointer in the 17-6 burst with which Duke began the second half, effectively ending any drama.

“Last year, they were watching the [NCAA] games in high school during the day and now they’re in it,” Allen said. “So it can be easy to get distracted by who was playing who, who is beating who, what’s the score. But if you focus on today: Duke versus Iona . . . We were able to focus on that.”

Iona played well and hard, as coach Tim Cluess had asked of his players. Forward Roland Griffin was especially strong, scoring 21 points and shooting 9-for-12 despite giving up four inches and 19 pounds to the 6-11 Bagley.

“Their guard play is good, too. It can be underrated at times, but the whole team is solid,” Griffin said of the Blue Devils.

Cluess said of his players, “These guys will have a special bond that will last a lifetime now.”

But for now, it will be Krzyzewski revisiting his bonds with Rhode Island coach Danny Hurley. The Duke coach has been friendly with the Hurleys since he recruited Danny’s brother Bobby to Duke. When the Hurleys’ father, Bob, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his record as a high school coach, he had Krzyzewski introduce him during the ceremony.

“Their family,” Krzyzewski said, “epitomizes the highest level of love for the game.”

And no one on either side expects jitters in the next round.

SCOREBOARD

MIDWEST REGIONAL

Duke 89, Iona 67

Rhode Island 83, Oklahoma 78 (OT)

Kansas 76, Penn 60

Seton Hall 94, North Carolina State 83

EAST REGIONAL

Villanova vs. Radford

Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, late

Florida vs. St. Bonaventure, late

SOUTH REGIONAL

Loyola-Chicago 64, Miami (Fla.) 62

Tennessee 73, Wright State 47

Davidson vs. Kentucky

Arizona vs. Buffalo, late

WEST REGIONAL

Gonzaga 68, UNC Greensboro 64

Ohio State 81, South Dakota State 73

Houston vs. San Diego State

Michigan vs. Montana, late

FRIDAY’S TV

SCHEDULE

WEST REGIONAL

Texas A&M vs. Providence, Ch. 2, 12:15 p.m

North Carolina vs. Lipscomb, Ch. 2, 2:45 p.m.

Xavier vs. Texas Southern, TBS, 7:20 p.m.

Missouri vs. Florida State, TBS, 9:50 p.m.

EAST REGIONAL

Purdue vs. Cal State-Fullerton, truTV, 12:40 p.m.

Wichita State vs. Marshall, TNT, 1:30 p.m.

Arkansas vs. Butler, truTV, 3:10 p.m.

West Virginia vs. Murray State, TNT, 4 p.m.

SOUTH REGIONAL

Cincinnati vs. Georgia State, TBS, 2 p.m.

Nevada vs. Texas, TBS, 4:30 p.m.

Creighton vs. Kansas State, TNT, 6:50 p.m.

Virginia vs. UMBC, TNT, 9:20 p.m.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

Michigan State vs. Bucknell, Ch. 2, 7:10 p.m.

Auburn vs. Charleston, truTV, 7:27 p.m.

TCU vs. Syracuse, Ch. 2, 9:40 p.m.

Clemson vs. New Mexico State, truTV, 9:57 p.m.

New York Sports