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Syracuse center sore, out tonight

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim didn't hesitate: Orange C Arinze Onuaku won't play tonight against Vermont in the first round.

"He's still very sore," Boeheim said Thursday. "He's getting better. He's being treated. He's still got pain when he puts pressure on his leg, so we've been practicing and playing and thinking that he would not be able to play. Beyond that, we still don't know."

Onuaku crashed to the floor with an injured right quadriceps last week against Georgetown during the Big East tournament.

"The hardest thing is this is my senior year, this is my team," said Onuaku, the school's career leader in field-goal percentage (64.9) who averages 10.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. "To not be on the floor with them is tough."

Onuaku said he is without pain and the swelling has gone down. He walked courtside during a shootaround, laughing and joking after signing autographs.

"His presence is going to carry us," F Wes Johnson said. "Him being on the sideline and being the leader is going to help us. If we keep winning, he'll eventually get back."

FRIENDLY BANTER: When former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote got word that Tom Izzo was coming to Heathcote's hometown of Spokane, Wash. to begin the Spartans' 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament, the mentor had a message for his protege.

"He said, 'Do me a favor,' " Izzo said of the man he replaced before the 1994-95 season. " 'Do you mind if you bring your whole team out here?' "

Heathcote, who will serve as host for team dinners, was referring to an uneven season full of angst. Izzo suspended a couple of players, kicked one out of practice and benched another.

"I had a lot of people (talk to) me about, 'Well, your team is dysfunctional,' " Izzo said. "These suspensions seem to be like eight or 10. There was one suspension and a five-minute sit out. I can't call Kalin Lucas missing practice a suspension, or he would have had 813 suspensions."

STAYING POWER: DePaul, Seton Hall and Iowa are already hiring, and a few other schools are sure to be in the market for a new coaches, too. One guy they can forget about calling? Oakland coach Greg Kampe, 54, who is in his 26th season at the school in Rochester, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. Four active coaches have longer tenures. "It really comes back down to the grass is always greener on the other side," said Kampe, 445-322 at Oakland.

BIG RED JOKE: Cornell G Louis Dale, C Jeff Foote and F Jon Jaques were hamming it up before a news conference and agreed that whoever took the first question would give an answer so far off base that everyone would question their Ivy League schooling. The opening question was about balancing education and basketball. "Well, we had a tremendous ride in. The police escort was fun. I think we're a very good team, a very capable team. It's really anybody's game," Foote said. The trio smiled at the puzzled looks.

warp speed: Today's Clemson-Missouri East Region game (2:35, Ch. 10) matches a pair of Tigers who keep attacking at a frenetic pace. "It'll be as fast as everybody thinks," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, who is 0-5 in the tournament with three schools. Missouri's intense style has resulted in an average of nearly 11 steals a game, best in the country. Missouri forces 19.7 turnovers. Clemson has an average of 17.5 forced turnovers and 9.6 steals. The teams have combined for 649 steals, 350 by Missouri.

what's with the name? Utah State G Pooh Williams got a little embarrassed when asked about his unusual name. The product of Federal Way, Wash., is formally known as Earnest, but even his mother doesn't call him that. "I had caramel skin color and was real, real fat," Williams said. "She used to call me her pooh bear and it stuck, and a lot of guys teased me about it."

Syracuse center sore, out tonight 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 12:12am]

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