Duke easily goes forth as champ, pounding N.C. State in ACC final

Softened up by Terps, Wolfpack tamed, 91-61

College Basketball

March 11, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- By the time Duke's pep band started its tepid rendition of "We are the Champions" after the team's 91-61 rout of North Carolina State, it seemed about as time appropriate as "Jingle Bell Rock."

The horns could have been humming at halftime of yesterday's Atlantic Coast Conference final, immediately after Mike Dunleavy had just scored nine of his 18 points during a three-minute stretch to give his team a 14-point lead heading into the break.

Tunes were in order when tournament Most Valuable Player Carlos Boozer demonstrated that the Wolfpack had no chance of stopping him inside on the way to a game-high 26 points.

Or when the hounded N.C. State team (22-10) showed none of the poise on offense that helped it to an upset of Maryland, its hurried shots and deflected passes a stark contrast to the successful backdoor cuts and long-range accuracy of the previous day.

Five minutes into the second half, the Blue Devils (29-3) were up 20 points -- on the way to their fourth straight ACC tournament.

"I think we had a little bit of an advantage today," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Maryland is so good. ... N.C. State came up with an amazing effort to beat them and that had to knock something out of them."

For Duke, it also served as a reminder of what can happen, even when you've beaten your opponent by 37 and 19 points this season.

"We've played them twice and they haven't been so close," Dun- leavy said. "But at this time of year, this is why they call it March Madness. We were really focused; we didn't want the upset to happen."

Krzyzewski said he didn't bother with a big motivational buildup for N.C. State because he felt the team had already motivated itself. Boozer said much of that had to do with the team's goal of playing up to its standards: "Right now, we want to concentrate on how Duke is playing. We are still getting better right now."

Faced with the same zone defense that Wake utilized in closing a large gap on Saturday, Duke guards Jason Williams (24 points, 10 assists) and Chris Duhon attacked it, finding Boozer on the inside for six points over the first seven minutes. Overall, the team hit 13 of its first 20 shots.

The Blue Devils used their ferocity -- combined with a fear N.C. State seeming reserves for them -- to hound the Wolfpack into 37 percent shooting after making around 60 percent of its shots in the previous two games.

From air balls to missed put-backs, N.C. State was bad inside and out when it actually got the chance to shoot as Duke camped in the passing lanes on the way to 11 steals.

Even Anthony Grundy, who carried N.C. State into the finals on his odd shooting angles, never got anything going as his team fell behind 21-7 after a Boozer basket with 13:28 left in the first half.

"Our thing is to come out early and let teams know that `you're in a different world,' " Duhon said. "If we had let them hang around, it would have been a long night. But we want to play great defense, execute on offense and let you know it's going to be a long night for you."

"It's a matter of maintaining poise," said Grundy, who was held to 13 points after averaging 28 in earlier tournament games. "It's just one of those teams where you have to get over the hill, and we haven't been able to do that."

N.C. State seemed like it might overcome its poor start and pulled to within 33-28 on a three-pointer by Grundy at the 2:54 mark. But Dunleavy started calling for the ball, and he nailed two three-pointers --one off the fast break and the other after a kick-out from Williams. It was part of a 13-4 run that effectively sealed the game.

"Mike has been on all year," Williams said. "This is a time where a lot of [courageous] plays are made, and for Mike to take those shots and make them was really gutsy of him."

With Duke shooting 61 percent from the field, the only question remaining in the second half was whether the burning nets would hold up long enough for the celebratory post-game cutting.

Four straight ACC tournament championships is a first in the league, and also gave the Blue Devils a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"This still means a lot, year after year," Dunleavy said. "It's something you never get tired of."

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