Gators snap Duke bid, 87-78

Florida scores last 13 to put top-ranked team on heap of fallen seeds

East streak ends at 26

Duke freshmen foiled

5th seeds win it at line

March 25, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- And now there is no Duke.

A top seed took another U-turn in the wacky NCAA basketball tournament last night when fifth-seeded Florida sent home the nation's No. 1 team by scoring the final 13 points to eliminate the Blue Devils, 87-78, in the East Regional semifinals at the Carrier Dome.

The outcome broke a string of six consecutive regional titles for Duke (29-5), which had reached the Final Four from the East every time it appeared here since 1986 -- a streak of 26 games.

Duke had a 78-74 lead with 4: 01 remaining after battling back from a seven-point halftime deficit, and never scored again. The Gators (27-7) dosed the Devils with some of their own medicine by sinking their last seven free throws.

Florida's unyielding defensive pressure and much more stocked bench probably took its toll on the Blue Devils, who lost freshman center Carlos Boozer to fouls with five minutes to go, and then couldn't score from long range when Florida's press drifted back into a zone.

"They did throw a lot of guys at us," said Duke's lone senior, Chris Carrawell, who scored 16 points in his last game before going to the bench in tears in the last minute. "But it wasn't a factor. They just made the plays down the stretch. We went out firing all our bullets and went down fighting."

Florida's little guys did most of the damage at crunch time, the run starting with a three-pointer by Teddy Dupay that trimmed Duke's lead to 78-77 at the three-minute mark. Mike Miller's basket on a feed from Brent Wright gained the lead and Duke spent the rest of the game tossing up futile three-point tries.

Dupay hit one free throw after being fouled on a three-point attempt, Udonis Haslem one of two and Miller followed with four straight to expand the advantage to 85-78. That was the end for the Blue Devils, whose only defeats since the opening two games were to Maryland and St. John's.

"It was just a great team effort by Florida," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I thought we played really well in the second half and put ourselves in a position to win. The last couple minutes, they hit their shots and we didn't hit ours."

The Gators have only reached a region title game once before, in 1994, when they went to the Final Four and lost to Duke.

Florida's defensive prowess -- not only full court, but also in a half-court game -- showed in 22 Blue Devils turnovers and 42.6 percent shooting. Duke hit only two of 17 three-point tries against Kansas in the second round and got away with it; 3-for-19 was not good enough against the Gators.

"We pressed back to a man the whole game, and then changed to a zone," said Dupay. "Then we changed up into a zone and it threw them off."

Florida coach Billy Donovan said he entered the game with four goals: to shoot more free throws, to keep his team's personal fouls to a reasonable level, to guard the perimeter well against Duke's shooters and to keep the Blue Devils honest on the boards.

Three out of four wasn't bad. Only in the rebounding department, where the Blue Devils had a 44-36 edge overall and scored freely at times with putbacks, did Donovan's team falter.

Donovan said he "hoped we had fatigued them enough" when he switched to the zone to allow his big man, Haslem, to remain on the floor. It worked.

Florida is ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll and almost didn't reach Syracuse, surviving 12th-seeded Butler, 69-68, in the first round on a buzzer-beating overtime shot by Miller.

"There was a lot made about our style of play and daring Duke to go against our press," said Donovan. "We felt we had to play our style. You can't be afraid to make plays in the NCAA tournament. You've got to play fearless."

Duke's freshmen showed some growing pains in this one. Point guard Jason Williams shot only 1-for-9 from long range, 6-for-20 overall. He fouled out with Boozer. Mike Dunleavy came off the bench to play 21 minutes and had as many turnovers (four) as points.

"Our kids were fantastic this whole year and the loss to Florida is not going to change that," said Krzyzewski. "This has been as gratifying a year as I've ever had as a basketball coach."

NCAA Tournament

Last night's games

East Regional semifinals

Florida 87, Duke 78

Oklahoma State 68, Seton Hall 66

South Regional semifinals

Tulsa 80, Miami 71

North Carolina 74, Tennessee 67

Today's games

West Regional final

wisconsin (21-13) vs. Purdue (24-9), 4:40 p.m.

Midwest Regional final

Michigan State (29-7) vs. Iowa State (32-4), 7 p.m.

TV coverage: Chs. 13,9

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