Blue Devils' own mystique matches will to win it all

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've stayed up to watch the NCAA basketball championship game. And while you're sipping that 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 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. Won another national championship last night defeating Arizona, 82-72, before a crowd of 45,994 at the Metrodome.

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 Maryland in a Final Four semifinal Saturday.

After that game, Maryland coach Gary Williams talked about making his team a model, but the perfect example is in his own conference.

If you're a fan of basketball, you've got to admire Duke. The Blue Devils have the best coach in Mike Krzyzewski, the nation's top player in forward Shane Battier, one of the best three-point shooting teams in America and a mystique that is rivaled by only a few organizations in the nation.

After winning his third national title last night, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is now in the class with such coaching legends as UCLA's John Wooden, who won ten, and Kentucky's Adolph Rupp with four.

Of course, it helps to have Battier and point guard Jason Williams. Battier, voted the nation's top player, finished with 18. 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 teammed with Battier in the second half Saturday night to put Maryland away, drilled 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.

"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."

The Blue Devils aren't all about great players. Krzyzewski has developed a chemistry and an aura in 25 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. 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, and they are relentless in that desire.

Blue Devils forward Mike Dunleavy was 1-for-6 from the floor in the first half, but he shot Duke into a comfortable lead with three straight three-pointers in the second half to open up 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 time before Boozer got hurt. But that's what the Blue Devils are about, stepping up. Reserve center Casey Sanders gave the Blue Devils quality minutes when Boozer was out with an injury.

And Boozer?

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

Who questioned his conditioning before the Final Four began?

It's all part of the Duke mystique.

That's why they get a lot of calls.

Duke got away with its usual amount of bad calls, especially in the first half last night. But it wouldn't be a Duke game without the Dukies getting some preferential treatment.

Two 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.

"I frankly thought Jason Williams was fouled out twice with push-offs, but it didn't happen," said Arizona coach Lute Olson.

The pre-eminent program in college basketball gets the brakes. Especially when your coach has 606 career wins, 56 tournament victories, appeared in nine Final Fours in 16 years and won three national championships.

They are a team you love to hate, but they sure know how to win.

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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