'Wojo' leads Duke to NIT final Gritty Gibbons alum earns date vs. Indiana

November 28, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Mike Krzyzewski is blunt when talking about this year's Duke basketball team.

"We're a young team," Krzyzewski said last night. "We're not the Duke of 1992. Put it that way."

There are no sure-fire NBA first-round draft picks, no Grant Hills or Christian Laettners filling the roster and the basket. But they are closer to being the Duke of old than at any time in the past three years.

Last night's 72-67 victory over No. 22 Tulsa in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden was a perfect example of how far back the sixth-ranked Blue Devils have come.

The victory put Duke into tomorrow night's championship game against Indiana. The 20th-ranked Hoosiers, after blowing an eight-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes left, came back to beat Evansville, 74-73, on a jumper from the baseline by Andrae Patterson at the buzzer.

It wasn't great shooting (24 of 60 from the field) that brought Duke back from a 10-point deficit late in the first half. It was great defense, and a blue-collar point guard named Steve Wojciechowski, a Severna Park native who went to Cardinal Gibbons.

"I look at our guards' turnovers and one had five and the other has three," said Tulsa coach Steve Robinson. "A lot can be attributed to what he [Wojciechowski] did. He did a good job putting pressure on the ball."

Wojciechowski's defense sparked Duke's first-half comeback, with his steal and layup starting a 9-0 run that erased all but a point of Tulsa's 27-17 lead. But it was more than his defense that enabled the Blue Devils to win their third in a row.

Continuing the play that began during preseason workouts, Wojciechowski finished with what has become a typical stat line: 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting, five assists, five rebounds, three steals and only one turnover in 38 minutes.

And don't forget the two stitches Wojciechowski wound up with over his right eye, the result of an elbow from All-American Shea Seals in the second half. Seals wound up with a game-high 25, but missed 13 of 21 shots.

"Each night we've had a different guy step up and do the job," said Wojciechowski, who now has 19 assists and just two turnovers. "I thought tonight it was our two freshmen. They gave us an unbelievable lift."

First it was Chris Carrawell twice putting Duke in the lead early in the second half with short jumpers. Then it was Mike Chappell stretching the Blue Devils out to a seven-point lead, 56-49, on back-to-back threes. Chappell finished with 10 points and Carrawell contributed nine. Center Greg Newton led the Blue Devils with 17 points and seven rebounds.

But in the end, it was Wojciechowski taking control of the game, hitting three of four free throws to keep the Golden Hurricane from narrowing the gap. When Tulsa finally hit a couple of threes to make things interesting, it was Wojciechowski preventing Rod Thompson from taking another to force a possible overtime.

Thompson, whose earlier three with Wojciechowski in his face had cut Duke's lead to 69-67, needed a three after Ricky Price made a free throw for a three-point lead. But Wojciechowski forced him to drive, and Newton blocked the shot, controlled the loose ball and was fouled, hitting both free throws to wrap up the victory.

"Wojo made a great play," said Newton, "but he's been doing that all season."

A loose ball also played a big part in the win by Indiana (3-0). With the Hoosiers down by one, Neil Reed missed a jumper with six seconds to play, but after a scramble the ball went out of bounds off Evansville. A. J. Guyton inbounded to Patterson, who turned and hit a high, arching shot.

Marcus Wilson's drive with 22 seconds left had capped a 9-0 run by Evansville (3-1).

The victory was the third in as many meetings between Indiana coach Bob Knight and his former player and assistant, Jim Crews.

"The first thing I want to do is apologize for our win," Knight said afterward. "I don't think we should have won. Not with some of the plays we made and the lack of intensity of some our players. There was no justice tonight."

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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