Duke's dynamic duo delivers 1-2 punch

Stars Battier, Williams start slowly before finishing off Terps

April 01, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- By the end, it was the All-Americans -- senior forward Shane Battier and sophomore point guard Jason Williams -- who rose to the occasion with their Duke teammates following. And it was really nothing new.

A slow start didn't deter Battier or Williams, who shared the lead role that brought the Blue Devils back from a 22-point first-half deficit for a 95-84 win over Maryland that will send Duke to its ninth national championship game against Arizona tomorrow night.

Struggling to find their offense early, Battier scored most of his 10 first-half points just before halftime and then took off in the second half. Williams only had four going into the break, with Maryland point guard Steve Blake once again giving him fits.

By game's end, Battier had a typical Battier line score: 25 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 40 minutes.

Williams, who came in averaging 28.7 points in Duke's first four tournament games, finished with 23 points moving to the two guard in the second half and away from Blake.

And the two standouts were clearly the best players on the floor.

"They bring everything whether it's offense, defense, intensity, leadership -- all the intangibles a team needs, Jason and Shane bring them," said sophomore center Carlos Boozer, who scored 19.

"When it comes down to the end, they're always there and we can depend on them -- that's what great players are made of."

Down 39-17 with 6:55 left in the first half, Williams sensed the Blue Devils needed to make something happen.

"I just thought we needed a sense of urgency. I thought that was the main thing," he said. "Being down 20, I think the primary thing for us to do was just to get their lead back in the single digits. Take it in steps. We weren't going to get it back in one shot."

Williams making the move to the two guard was one of the keys in the second-half comeback.

"Jason Williams is a great player. He's going to get some at some point in the game," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "Great players usually step up at critical times. I thought he played well in the second half."

Williams credited freshman Chris Duhon, who made the switch to the point, and added 10 points and six assists.

"Chris' ability to put ball pressure is probably better than anybody on our team," Williams said. "Why not have Chris pressure the ball well when I play off the ball?"

Battier sprinkled points, rebounds, blocks and assists throughout the game. Boozer followed the two leaders with strong play down the stretch.

"We just wanted to claw our way back into the game, and we knew going into halftime down 11 that we would have to claw our way back into the game and were in position to go for the win," Battier said.

In the second half, the Blue Devils went back to playing simple basketball.

"The first half, we didn't play as smooth as we had hoped," said Battier, who has garnered seven different Player of the Year awards this season. "We were looking to run plays to bail us out. But at that point, the best thing for us was just to play basketball and play our motion offense and just play off each other. That's why we've won so many games this year, our instincts and our ability to play off each other."

Along with the impressive numbers both Battier and Williams post each time out, the two also come with other intangibles.

"This team has a lot of heart," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "We're a real young team, so we're prone to getting nervous. But it's the heart of this team, and I think one of the biggest hearts I've coached is Jason Williams. He put us on his back for a while there in the second half."

Now, it's Arizona, as Duke goes after its third national championship.

"It's going to be a special night," Battier said. "I don't think you could have two better teams, two better coaches, two better traditions in this championship game. We're really happy to win this game, we know Monday night is going to be a special game."

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