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Duke stirs up Laettner memories in Wildcat Country

Duke got more than its share of boos when taking the court at Rupp Arena for practice on Wednesday.

Kentucky fans have long loathed the Blue Devils, ever since Christian Laettner's game-winning shot knocked the Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament in the 1992 East Region finals.

Duke's 104-103 overtime win is considered by many to be the best game in tournament history. The Blue Devils also beat Kentucky 95-92 in overtime this season.

"I don't think the game will be decided by what happens in the stands," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I do see these K flags all over and I thought it was a welcome for me. Being Polish we're simple minded and that's the first reaction I had."

A few dozen Duke fans stood up and cheered when the Blue Devils hit the court, but most in the crowd, many wearing Kentucky hats and T-shirts, booed loudly.

"We're for Indiana," yelled one fan.

"It's going to be an environment, beside our families behind our bench, where everybody else is going to want to see us lose," Mike Dunleavy said of tonight's matchup with Indiana. "I think people are getting tired of Duke."

The Hoosiers aren't exactly liked in this part of Kentucky either. In fact, Indiana coach Mike Davis was quoted earlier in the season as saying he hated Kentucky.

Davis backpedaled Wednesday.

"I apologize if I've ever said anything to offend any Kentucky fans. I even let my little boy wear blue sometimes," Davis said. "I am hoping they cheer for us. We need all the help we can get."

INJURY UPDATE: Tom Coverdale's sprained left ankle is coming along, but the Indiana guard won't be close to 100 percent tonight.

Coverdale injured his ankle in the team's NCAA Tournament first-round win against Utah. He played a season-low 22 minutes as the Hoosiers advanced against North Carolina-Wilmington.

"He's hurting," Davis said. "He's not the quickest guy in the world anyway, but there's not a tougher guy in basketball than Tom Coverdale."

BLUEGRASS BLUES: Indiana has lost its past five games in the Bluegrass State, all to Kentucky at Freedom Hall in Louisville.

The Hoosiers' last win in Kentucky came in the second round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament, when they beat Florida State 82-60 in Louisville.

Indiana last played in Rupp Arena in 1988, beating Kentucky 75-52.


COACH'S FATHER ILL: Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson's 72-year-old father had emergency brain surgery after falling ill at the team's practice Tuesday.

John W. Sampson, known as Ned, had surgery for a subdural hematoma, or blood collecting on the brain, at about midnight, team physician Brock Schnebel said.

"My father, growing up, he was a high school basketball coach " Kelvin Sampson said before breaking down in tears.

"I'm sorry," he said, covering his eyes with his hand.

Several moments passed before he continued.

"Your experiences shape who you are. He's a worker. He was tough. The adversity that you were raised in shapes you as you get older," he said, his eyes red with tears. "I've always appreciated that."

The surgical procedure to drain blood from his brain took about an hour, Schnebel said.

The elder Sampson, who had a stroke 20 years ago, was speaking but not yet walking, and a full recovery was expected,' Schnebel said.

STRONG INFLUENCES: Bill Walton wasn't the only influence on son Luke Walton's game. Every day at lunch, the younger Walton got a dose of John Wooden, too.

"My dad used to write John Wooden quotes on all of our lunch bags every day," Luke Walton said as his Arizona Wildcats prepared to play Oklahoma in their NCAA West Region game tonight.

Dad Bill Walton played for Wooden at UCLA before moving to the NBA and broadcasting.

NEARLY A TIGER: Jason Kapono was nearly a Tiger before he was a Bruin.

As a high school senior in suburban Los Angeles, UCLA's high-scoring junior forward considered Missouri "very hard," he said.

Kapono thought there would be less pressure on him if he left the state. He also respected Missouri's program and coach Norm Stewart, and was friends with Tigers guard Josh Kroenke.

In the end, however, the local school won out.

"I've always dreamt of being a Bruin and that's what I finally chose to do," he said.


ONE OF THE GUYS: Deginald Erskin is not considered the catalyst of Texas' offense and doesn't want to be.

"I'm never the go-to guy," he said. "I'm only the fourth option. And I hope we don't change. I don't want to be the first option."

But the Longhorns probably wouldn't be in the regional semifinals without him.

The junior forward became the latest to play the role of hero for No. 6 seed Texas. His 17 points, including a key three-point play, sent the Longhorns past Mississippi State and into the NCAA second round for the first time since 1997.