Duke forward Brian Davis was battling Iowa's Chris Street for a rebound when the two became entangled under the Hawkeyes basket Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Push came to shove, and Street was pinned back to the basket support.
No words were exchanged. No foul was called. But in that brief encounter, Davis was sending a message for his teammates to all the teams trying to deny the Blue Devils a fifth straight trip to the Final Four and derail their attempt to become the first repeat champion since UCLA in 1973.
"We're tired of people coming at us [physically] and playing hard," said Davis, who got into several altercations with Iowa players during the 75-62 win. "We have to come at other people and be aggressive and show that we can play any style."
The Blue Devils (30-2) will probably find themselves in a position to make another statement tonight at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, when they face Seton Hall (23-8) in an East Regional semifinal. The Pirates were co-champions in the regular season in the Big East, a league so physical that players get an extra personal foul during the regular season.
"We're going in there confident," said Seton Hall point guard Bryan Caver. "And we will not be intimidated."
The Pirates may have enough bodies on the bench to help deliver their physical message. While Duke usually goes just seven deep (with Grant Hill and Cherokee Parks getting the key minutes off the bench), the Pirates sometimes go eight and nine deep -- which may be necessary if Seton Hall attempts to wear down Duke.
Seton Hall was in the same position a year ago when it faced that season's best collection of physical players, Nevada-Las Vegas, in the West Regional final. The Pirates trailed by just three at the half against the top-ranked Runnin' Rebels, before losing, 77-65.
Unlike a year ago, when Seton Hall had just a day to prepare for UNLV, coach P. J. Carlesimo will have four days to get ready for the Blue Devils. Carlesimo is hoping that's time enough to come up with an effective game plan.
"If Duke plays as well as it's capable, it can beat anybody," Carlesimo said. "I'm happy with the time we have to get ready."
If Seton Hall has a chance to win, it would probably have to get some scoring as a result of defensive pressure. Iowa, during one second-half stretch Saturday, scored 14 straight as a result of its full-court press, which helped cut what had been a 26-point Duke lead to eight. Although the Blue Devils recovered nicely from the run, it was one of the few times this season that the team appeared vulnerable.
"We just had a mental lapse where we were throwing the ball away," said Duke guard Bobby Hurley. "We can't have that many mental lapses, especially in a game like this."
Among possible distractions Hurley will face are two of his former teammates from St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City, N.J.
Seton Hall forward Jerry Walker and guard Terry Dehere played with Hurley under his father, Bob Hurley Sr.
Then there's little brother Danny, a point guard at Seton Hall who succeeded Bobby at St. Anthony's.
"It's not something that I've really looked forward to," said Bobby, who got together with his brother last weekend, as Seton Hall and Duke shared a hotel in Greensboro, N.C.
Duke and Seton Hall played in the Final Four in 1989, with the Pirates winning the semifinal, 95-78, to advance to the championship game. Duke leads the series, 3-1.