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updated: 3/4/2013 1:10 PM

The NCAA Tournament returns, and North Central is ready

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If Centre College's coaches yelled it once, they yelled it 10 times to their players during North Central's possessions on Saturday night.

"Where's Raridon? Where's Raridon?"

Centre knew the answer often enough to limit senior swingman Derek Raridon, the CCIW Player of the Year, to 8 shots during first-round Division III NCAA Tournament action at Gregory Arena in Naperville.

But Raridon's teammates -- particularly post players Landon Gamble and Charlie Rosenberg -- took advantage of the extra operating room to lead the Cardinals to a 66-50 triumph in their first NCAA Tournament home game since 1990.

Gamble delivered a game-high 17 points and Rosenberg, a Fremd product, contributed a season-high-tying 11 points off the bench as No. 3 North Central (25-3) advanced to second-round play against No. 5 Wisconsin-Whitewater (24-4) on Saturday. The site will be determined today.

"We got the ball inside to Landon and Charlie and they were dominating inside," said Raridon, who finished with 10 points in 37 minutes.

"It's why they're so good: It's called balance," said Centre coach Greg Mason. "You look at a Kansas or someone like that. Kansas is so good because you have to guard the perimeter and you have to guard the post. That's North Central."

The Cardinals, who reached the Sweet Sixteen in last year's NCAA tournament, looked jittery early and committed three unforced turnovers in their first four possessions.

Then the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Rosenberg entered the game and shook things up with six points in a row. He scored on a post move, stole the ball for a two-handed dunk and then scored on a powerful post move to put North Central ahead to stay.

Nonetheless, North Central's halftime lead was just 28-21 as the host missed all 7 of its 3-point attempts.

But in the second half the Cardinals didn't bother disguising their intentions. The 6-6, 240-pound Gamble, a three-time all-CCIW selection, got the ball in the post on the first three possessions and powered his way for four layup attempts.

On North Central's fourth possession Gamble saw the defense converging and zipped a perfect backdoor pass to Aaron Tiknis for a layup that pushed the lead to double figures.

The Cardinals shot 68 percent from the field in the second half as they tried just one 3-pointer (a Raridon swish with 4:33 to play).

"That's the sign of a smart basketball team when that happens," said North Central coach Todd Raridon.

The Cardinals didn't save all of their brilliance for the offensive end. Centre (21-6) entered the game hitting 38 percent from 3-point range and averaging almost eight 3s per game.

North Central didn't allow Centre's guards to catch and shoot as the Colonels finished 2 of 16 from the arc.

Now it's on to an absurdly tough Round of 32 game in this 62-team tournament. The Warhawks have won three Division III titles, including last year's.

"We've got to beat good teams to get to the national championship, anyway," Rosenberg said. "If anything, it's probably better to play better teams so we're ready for that national championship game."

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