Mich. bedevils No. 1 Duke Down 17, Wolverines bounce back to add chapter to rivalry, 81-73

December 14, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan and Duke had staged a number of down-to-the-wire battles over the past decade, both during the regular season and in the NCAA tournament, both here at Crisler Arena and at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Yesterday wasn't supposed to be one of those matchups because the Wolverines were supposed to be overmatched by the top-ranked Blue Devils. But something stirred Michigan early in the second half. It might have been the thought of getting embarrassed on national television.

"People say we play for the camera," senior center Robert Traylor said. "I guess that's what we did today."

With Traylor taking advantage of his bulk and experience against Duke's young frontcourt, and junior guard Louis Bullock lighting up Steve Wojciechowski during a key second-half run that erased a 17-point deficit, the unranked Wolverines upset the Blue Devils, 81-73.

Traylor, who outweighed 260-pound freshman Elton Brand by some 40 pounds, scored 24 points and finished with 13 rebounds. Bullock scored 17 of his season-high 23 points in the second half, 10 as Michigan (6-2) turned a 59-43 deficit into a 67-66 lead. Brand led Duke with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

"There's no question that Michigan played a great second half," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils had won their first nine games by an average of more than 35 points a game. "Their maturity individually and collectively was greater than ours."

Said Wojciechowski, a senior from Severna Park: "Most of our games had been at home or on neutral courts and everybody knows that it's tougher to win on the road. That's a hurdle we want to get over. Maybe in the future we will."

If the Blue Devils had hardly been tested this season -- until yesterday, they had never even been behind in the second half of any game -- the Wolverines had endured quite a bit. First they lost their coach, Steve Fisher, who was fired in October. Then they lost to Western Michigan at home and, most recently, at Bradley last week.

It led to interim coach Brian Ellerbe getting together with his players after practice Friday night.

"The players said what they thought their roles should be, and then Coach defined their roles for them," Traylor said.

The role Bullock took over midway through the second half -- running the point instead of playing shooting guard -- proved to be critical to Michigan's success. Besides hitting three consecutive three-point shots, he also got the ball inside to Traylor.

Despite losing junior forward Maceo Baston, first to injury and later to fouls, the Wolverines stormed back. It was similar to last year's one-point win at Duke, when Michigan trailed by 12 with six minutes left and held the Blue Devils without a field goal in the last 10 minutes.

"When we came inside at halftime and we were down 11, we thought about last year," said Bullock, who finished the game hitting all four of his threes after going 11 for 38 this season. "This year we knew we had the whole 20 minutes to get back into the game."

With the Wolverines holding onto a 72-71 lead and 2: 39 remaining, Bullock made the defensive play of the game. With time running down on the 35-second clock, Duke forward Mike Chappell started to go up for a three.

Chappell hesitated, put the ball on the floor and Bullock swiped it, going in for a layup. Wojciechowski, who moments before had picked up his fourth personal foul, let Bullock go in for an uncontested layup to continue what would be a game-breaking 11-0 run for Michigan (6-2).

"That was a lot of fun," Ellerbe said after what was easily the most significant victory of his coaching career, and one that could go a long way in helping the former Loyola coach get the interim removed from his title. "That game made a statement about Michigan. We're alive and well."

It also made a statement about Duke (9-1). It said that the deep and talented Blue Devils might not be quite the invincible powerhouse many had predicted after their early-season victory over defending national champion Arizona in the Maui Invitational final.

"This is the first time we've been in a game like this and we didn't respond well," Krzyzewski said.

Bullock said, "We've been waiting for a big game all season. You always wait for a chance to get to be on television and prove we can play with anybody in the country."

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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