Blue Devils' will to win matches mystique

April 03, 2001|By Mike Preston

MINNEAPOLIS - It has to be a rough morning for Maryland basketball fans.

By now, you're late for work because you stayed up to watch the NCAA basketball championship game. And while you're sipping coffee, you keep switching the TV channel. Everywhere you look, there is a Blue Devil. Click. It's Shane Battier and Jason Williams on ESPN. Click. It's Coach K on "Good Morning, America."

By the end of tonight, Duke likely will be featured again on ESPN Classic. Probably, the "Road to Glory" with three of the games against Maryland.

Those darn Blue Devils, they did it again. They won another national championship last night, defeating Arizona, 82-72, before 45,994 at the Metrodome.

Maryland can't even win a second Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title. It's enough to make your stomach turn.

A footnote to a good Maryland season would have been for Duke to lose in the national championship game after beating the Terps in a Final Four semifinal Saturday.

But there is no use player hating. If you're a fan of basketball, you've got to admire Duke's program.

The Blue Devils have the best coach in Mike Krzyzewski, the nation's top player in forward Battier, one of the best three-point shooting teams in America and a mystique that is rivaled by only a few organizations in the country.

Maryland has closed the gap in its chase of Duke over the years, but the Terps are still a Blue Devils wannabe.

They want to be like Mike.

Krzyzewski is now in the class with such coaching legends as UCLA's John Wooden, who won 10 national championships, and Kentucky's Adolph Rupp with four.

Of course, it helps to have Battier and Williams, the point guard. Battier, the college Player of the Year, finished with 18 points. Williams had 16.

Down the stretch of last night's game, they drove Duke to the national championship. With Arizona pulling within 73-68 with 4:21 left in the game, Battier delivered a dunk, a tip-in and another dunk to give Duke a 77-72 lead with 2:28 remaining.

Then Williams, who teamed with Battier in the second half Saturday night to put Maryland away, made a three-pointer with 1:41 left for an 80-72 lead that virtually sealed the game for Duke. All Williams basically had to do at that point was dribble around, get fouled, make a few foul shots and put the game away.

"The thing with Duke, you pick your poison," said Arizona coach Lute Olson. "Sometimes it's going to be one guy, another time it's going to be somebody else. The one consistent thing is that Shane Battier is going to have a great game, because he just makes things happen. I don't think there's been any question in anyone's mind about him being the Player of the Year."

"It's complete," said Battier, a senior, of winning his first national championship. "All that's left for me is to ride off into the sunset on a white horse. I love my guys. We fought. It was a great year, and this is just the perfect way for us to end it."

Olson is right, though. The Blue Devils aren't all about great players. Krzyzewski has developed a chemistry and an aura in his years at Duke. The Blue Devils refuse to quit.

When starting center Carlos Boozer broke his foot on Feb. 27 against Maryland, a lot of people thought that was the end of Duke's season. The Blue Devils weren't supposed to have enough depth. They weren't supposed to be strong underneath anymore.

But this is Duke.

The Blue Devils have a will to win. They are supposed to win.

Blue Devils forward Mike Dunleavy was 1-for-6 from the field in the first half, but he shot Duke into a comfortable lead with three straight three-pointers in the second half to open a 54-48 lead with 12:10 remaining in the game.

Dunleavy led all Blue Devils with 21 points, but he wasn't the only hero. Duke got a solid performance from guard Chris Duhon (nine points), who was on the bench most of the season before Boozer got hurt.

Someone always steps up. Reserve center Casey Sanders did a solid job during Boozer's absence

And Boozer?

An assistant coach of one of the Final Four teams had the audacity to question his conditioning before the semifinals began.

Boozer finished last night's game with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

It all fits into the Duke mystique.

That's why it gets a lot of calls.

Duke got away with its usual amount of preferential treatment last night, especially in the first half. One of the most obvious was Dunleavy knocking Arizona forward Richard Jefferson to the floor after a rebound with 6:29 left in the first half.

No call.

The most glaring was Arizona forward Michael Wright going to the basket with 6:59 left in the half. Williams appeared to foul him, but instead a jump ball was called. A foul would have been Williams' third of the game, but that wasn't going to happen.

Not in a game of this magnitude. Not when CBS is paying out billions of dollars for the broadcasting rights. Williams finished with four fouls.

Elite company

Mike Krzyzewski is the fourth coach to win at least three NCAA men's basketball championships.

Coach...School...No.

John Wooden...UCLA...10

Adolph Rupp...Kentucky...4

Bob Knight...Indiana...3

Mike Krzyzewski...Duke...3

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