Greer leads No. 1 seed Duke in rout of Providence

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke's lacrosse team endured 13 character-testing months marked by rape allegations against players and a discarded season, all for another chance to compete for an elusive national championship.

Once they finally made it to the postseason, a lengthy weather delay was no big deal.

Zack Greer scored five goals, and top-seeded Duke scored 15 straight goals in an 18-3 rout of Providence on Saturday in an NCAA tournament first-round game suspended for 2 hours and 2 minutes.

The delay "is something that's going to distract you, obviously," Greer said, "but at the same time, we've been through worse."

Greer was referring to the scandal that tainted the image of both the program and Duke University. Last season was canceled after eight games amid rape allegations against three players who ultimately were exonerated.

The Blue Devils returned to the field this season and dedicated themselves to rebuilding their sullied reputation. In the NCAA opener, Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Matt Danowski helped the Blue Devils take an impressive first step toward the national title they were among the favorites to claim a year ago.

Danowski had two goals and a career-high seven assists, setting the school's career assist record in his final game at Koskinen Stadium and helping Duke (15-2) win its 10th straight.

"To be honest, it was kind of nerve-racking because I haven't played at this stage [in the tournament] in what seems like a really long time," Danowski said. "This step was really important because we won the right way. It wasn't what the score was -- we played right, we played with confidence and a sense of swagger, offensively. That's something we've been looking for all season."

Greer, who entered ranked second nationally with 51 goals, had his fifth straight game with at least three goals. Danowski recorded his 118th career assist and surpassed Tony Cullen's previous record of 114, helping the Blue Devils advance to face the Navy-North Carolina winner May 20 in Annapolis, Md.

Greer helped Duke pull away from overmatched Providence (7-10) by scoring three times during the Blue Devils' five-goal second period.

The backbreaker came just before halftime when Greer took a pass from Danowski and snapped it past Providence goalkeeper Peter Littell to make it 9-1 with 6 seconds left.

"It seemed like in the second and the third periods, every time I turned around, they had a guy coming on top of me," Littell said.

Bennett Murphy scored both of his goals late for Providence, which wanted to play a slow, stalling style to shorten the game but ended up falling victim to Duke's siege and dropping to 0-3 in NCAA tournament play.

"I see them going pretty far in this tournament," Providence coach Chris Burdick said.

Brad Ross added two goals and an assist for Duke, which made its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since losing 9-8 to Johns Hopkins in the national championship game in 2005.

The following year, the Blue Devils were talented enough to make another run at the title. Then, the phrase "Duke lacrosse" took on a scandalous connotation that was touched off when an exotic dancer told police she was raped by three players at a team party.

The players' attorneys steadfastly maintained their clients' innocence. After 13 months of investigating and legal maneuvering, prosecutors agreed and dropped all charges against the athletes.

Duke's return to the NCAAs came one day after the city of Durham expressed regret for the photo lineup used to obtain the indictments against former players David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, saying the gallery was intended to identify witnesses, not suspects.

The game was suspended because of lightning and thunderstorms with 11:34 left in the third and Duke leading 10-1.