Duke gets running start vs. N.C. State

Blue Devils erase deficit with 15-0 burst, 76-61

Love `key to the game'

March 10, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Since losing center Carlos Boozer with a foot injury 12 days ago against Maryland, Duke has tried to find new ways to score and new players to fit into its regular rotation. While the Blue Devils might not be better without Boozer over the long haul, they're not too shabby in the short term.

Duke closed out the regular season with a statement-making 14-point win over archrival North Carolina in Chapel Hill last Sunday, then opened up the 48th Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with a rather routine 76-61 victory over North Carolina State last night.

The quarterfinal victory at the Georgia Dome - the seventh straight for the Blue Devils in a tournament they've won the past two years and their 10th straight overall against the Wolfpack - put second-seeded Duke (27-4) into today's second semifinal.

The Blue Devils will play the Terps, 71-53 winners over Wake Forest last night. Top-seeded North Carolina will meet fifth-seeded Georgia Tech in the first semifinal game. The winners will play for the championship tomorrow.

"This was a tough game for us, especially coming off the North Carolina win," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "With the reality of not having Carlos out there, we knew that [N.C.] State would be dangerous, especially on the boards."

It seemed that way in the first 10 minutes, but that was before Duke began to run. Behind a 15-0 burst that began with seven straight points from sophomore guard Jason Williams, the Blue Devils turned a 19-16 deficit into a 31-19 lead.

Duke stretched that lead to 14 points by halftime, at 39-25, and led by as many as 24 points in the second half. Williams finished with a game-high 19 points, and fellow All-American Shane Battier contributed 16 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks while becoming the winningest player in ACC history.

But it was the contributions of senior forward Nate James and reserve forward Reggie Love - a wide receiver on the Duke football team - that Krzyzewski said were the biggest factors of the game. James emerged from a recent slump to finish with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Love energized Duke with his defense.

"Probably the key to the game was Reggie Love," Krzyzewski said. "He just gave us a big boost. His play was instrumental in the win. Nate's had a terrific season, but the last couple of weeks, he hasn't played up to that level. He's human. Tonight, he took a big step toward being the player he was."

The Blue Devils could take another step toward sewing up their No. 1 seeding in the East with a victory today. It will likely come down to either Duke or North Carolina for the No. 1 seed in the East Regional at Greensboro, N.C. The loser will likely be shipped to the South Regional.

The Wolfpack's defeat ended a disappointing 13-16 season. While embattled coach Herb Sendek recently received a vote of confidence from the administration, rumors persist that vote could be rescinded if Rick Pitino is available.

"I think our guys continue to battle day in and day out," Sendek said.

NOTE: About the only problem Duke faced yesterday was coming here without its home white uniforms. Fortunately, the Wolfpack saved them from any further embarrassment by having both their red and black uniforms. Instead of warm-up jerseys, Krzyzewski paid for blue Duke T-shirts from a concession stand.(Box score, 6c)

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