MINNEAPOLIS -- With seven minutes to go in the NCAA title game last night, Duke was leading by three. With two minutes to go, Duke was leading by 12.
The intervening five minutes were all about the crushing of the Michigan dream and the stepping out of Duke's superb 6-8 sophomore, Grant Hill.
By nature, Hill is as retiring as his skills are regal. There was no place to retire to last night, not after 18 points, 8-for-14 shooting, a game-high 10 boards, five assists, three steals and a couple of blocks.
"I really think Grant's penetration was the key to the ballgame," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He can't be stopped, really. At least in the college game, one on one."
"Grant Hill made a lot of great baskets," Michigan forward James Voskuil said. "He worked the baseline all night. The way our defense works, we're supposed to rotate, and get help-side defense when somebody goes baseline. Tonight, things weren't operating the way the way they were supposed to."
Hill slipped in a swift, elegant reverse with 5:40 left, pushing the Duke lead to 52-45. Two minutes later, he was darting baseline again, this time going up strong, throwing down a thunderous, two-fisted dunk, making it 58-47.
After Michigan drew within nine, he got great position inside. Thomas Hill's jumper bounced off the iron, and Hill was springing up, tipping it in, another brutal two-point pin in the Michigan balloon.
"The first half I was trying to take what the defense gave me. The drive was there," Hill said. "I try to be at the right place at the right time."
And that's where he was again, under two minutes left now. He had the ball on the right side, spotted Antonio Lang, whipped the ball inside and a Lang dunk followed.
Mike Brey, Duke assistant coach, was still marveling at Hill's night about a half hour afterward. "Sometimes he's too nice a player. He wants to wait his turn," Brey said. "We've talked about next year, how Grant will really explode. Well, it was like his junior year came early. It was as if he said, 'I'm going to take over.' And that's exactly what he did."