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MARCH MADNESS GETS OFF TO AN EARLY START

March Madness is here.

With the NCAA tournament set to start in just 2 1/2 weeks, No. 1 Duke and No. 4 UCLA showed Sunday what kind of wild finishes to expect. Tied with 2 1/2 minutes left, the defending champion Blue Devils broke away to win 75-65 (see complete story on page D1)."We thought of it as an NCAA game, a Sweet 16 game, possibly a Final Four game," Duke's Christian Laettner said.

"We're still very hungry for another championship. We've got to keep improving and it will happen."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski wanted his team to get ready for different styles and difficult settings - and winning in Los Angeles served both purposes. Duke (23-2) sent UCLA (21-4) to its third straight loss in front of 13,023 fans, the largest crowd ever at Pauley Pavilion.

"It was a good game for us because you can't simulate in practice playing top teams from the other parts of the country," Krzyzewski said.

On Saturday, Arizona beat Oregon State 70-62, Kansas State beat No. 6 Missouri 73-69, No. 8 Ohio State beat No. 12 Michigan State 78-65, No. 9 Arkansas beat Mississippi State 84-76, Louisiana State beat No. 16 Alabama 73-65, No. 18 Georgetown beat Boston College 76-60, No. 19 Cincinnati beat Alabama-Birmingham 63-58, Notre Dame beat No. 20 St. John's 79-70, No. 21 DePaul beat St. Louis 88-71, No. 22 Syracuse beat Miami 68-63 and No. 25 Nebraska beat Colorado 84-70.

No. 2 Indiana 76, Illinois 70

Damon Bailey's three foul shots in the final 28 seconds helped the Hoosiers (21-4, 12-2) win at home and hold onto a one-game lead in the Big Ten over Ohio State. The Illini, trailing by 22 points with 6:45 left, closed to 73-67 with 50 seconds left, prompting Indiana coach Bob Knight to yell at his team to get back on the court after a timeout.

Maryland 82, No. 10 N. Carolina 80

Walt Williams tipped in a miss with 1.3 seconds left and Maryland sent visiting North Carolina to its fourth straight loss, its longest skid since 1965.

The Tar Heels (18-7, 8-6 ACC) trailed 51-29 at halftime before chipping away, taking their first lead at 80-79 on a three-point play by Hubert Davis with 18.5 seconds to go. Maryland's Ever Burns missed a short jumper, but Williams, who had 28 points, scored on his second tip-in try.

No. 11 Kentucky 80, Vanderbilt 56

Jamal Mashburn hit five of six 3-point shots and scored a career-high 34 points as the Wildcats (22-5, 11-3) clinched the SEC Eastern Division title with its seventh straight victory. Kentucky won its 16th straight at home against Vanderbilt.

Seton Hall 77 No. 24 Connecticut 64

Bryan Caver, excluded from the starting lineup because he violated team rules, scored 11 straight points in the second half and finished with 18 for Seton Hall (18-7, 10-6 Big East). The Huskies (17-8, 8-8) have lost seven of eight.