More than 1,000 people crowded into Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday to watch the Blue Devils practice for tonight's 9:35 NCAA East Region semifinal game with Ivy League champion Pennyslvania (20-7).
There was one discouraging sight for those hoping to see Duke (24-6) advance to Sunday's regional final against the winner of tonight's Indiana (21-7) vs. Villanova (22-8) game (7:10 p.m.).
"They saw (leading scorer) Jim Spanarkel turn his ankle, and they saw the head coach turn pale," said Duke coach Bill Foster. "We immediately went to our foul-shooting drills."
In the semifinals of the Midwest Region tonight, at Lawrence, Kan., De Paul (26-2) meets Louisville (23-6) at 7:06 and Utah (23-5) plays Notre Dame (21-6) at 10:36.
Spanarkel will play tonight with his right ankle taped but Foster was unsure of his effectiveness.
"he's a tough kid and he should play a lot," said Foster. "Obviously, if we don't have him out there we would not be as strong a team."
The other starting guard, John Harrell, is recovering after spraining an ankle in last Sunday's victory over Rhode Island. But he practiced yesterday near full speed and is in better shape than Spanarkel.
The key man in Duke's lineup tonight will be 6-foot-11 center Mike Gminski, whose task is two-fold.
Defensively, the Blue Devils are counting on Gminiski to plug up the middle and force action outside, where the Quakers are weaker. The heart of Penn's offense is its strong, quick forwards - Keven McDonald, the 55 per cent shooter who led the Ivy League in scoring (22.7), and Tony Price, a long-armed,leaping inside player who led the league in rebounding (9.1) and scored 15 points a game.
In Sunday's 63-62 win over Rhode Island, the back line of Duke's 2-3 zone defense proved accessible to forward Sly Williams, who used a repertoire of fdrives and outside shots similar McDonald's to score 27 points.
Offensively, Gminski is favorably mismatched with Penn's 6-9 Matt White of Bethesda, Md., who played basketball and won a nnationwide Piana Teachers Guild award at Choate in Massachusetts. White's skills don't equal Gminski's and he is prone to foul trouble, so the Blue Devils plan to challenge him.
"I think I'll have to take it to him inside," said Gminski. "I'll use some pump-fakes and stay near the basket and see if I can get him in foul trouble."
Defensively, Gminski said, "I know I'm the key to the middle. I don't have to block every shot, but if I can get a hand in their faces and distract them, maybe I can throw them off. They're a physical team and a smart team. They don't throw up the first shot they get. They look for a good one."
"Mike should be a big factor," said Foster. "I look for Mike to be more intimidating than he was against Rhode Island.
"We have to up the tempo and play more of our game. We have to play a lot quicker. We can't get off to a slow start like we did against Rhode Island."
Penn platoons its guards, starting left-handers Stan Green and Bobby Willis, then bringing in James Salters for quickness and Tom Crowley for added outside shooting.
THe Quakers (20-7) are underdogs. But first-year Coach Bob Weinhauer notes. "it may be on paper that Duke and Indiana look stronger, but the game is not played on paper."
Indians, (21-7), is favored over Villanova (19-8). Wildcat Coach Rollie Massimino fears his players might suffered NGAA jitters that plagued Duke in its first game.
"They are too excited," said Messimino. "Their concentration is not what it should be. I hope they'll settle down."