Duke enters tourney oddly, after ACC loss

Duhon's ribs, shooting of Redick add intrigue

March 18, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When top-seeded Duke opens the 2004 NCAA men's tournament tonight with No. 16 seed Alabama State at the RBC Center, the Blue Devils will be doing it with a different mind-set than in recent seasons.

Six years, to be exact.

Duke comes into the postseason after a loss, Sunday's 95-87 overtime defeat to Maryland in the ACC tournament championship game down the road in Greensboro. That will be a first for all of the regulars except for freshman Luol Deng.

"I guess it is a little different," said sophomore guard J.J. Redick. "Last year, we were a young team, and we needed that momentum going into the tournament. We needed that confidence. This year, we're a little more apt to move on to the next game."

Not that Duke has regained the swagger it might have had earlier this season, Redick in particular. Considered the best shooter in college basketball, Redick has been in a slump for a few weeks.

Redick missed 11 of 17 shots against the Terps, including a wide-open three-point try at the end of regulation. Redick said it might be the result of getting worn down physically and admitted that he hasn't been as diligent in doing extra conditioning work after practice.

But his shot?

"I'm in a good place with my shot," said Redick, who was a combined nine of 30 in the ACC tournament, three of 17 on threes. "I've struggled with my shot, but I haven't lost confidence."

Redick is not the only Blue Devil who comes into the NCAA tournament with some questions. Junior guard Daniel Ewing hit only six of 15 against Maryland and was three of nine on three-pointers the past two games.

And then there is Chris Duhon's physical condition. The bruised ribs Duhon suffered during a collision with a stationary television camera during the Maryland game are still bothering him, perhaps more now.

Asked when the injury bothers him, Duhon said, "Constantly. It hurts to breathe. It hurts when anyone touches it."

Duhon said that the Blue Devils learned from their first ACC tournament loss in five Years, explaining: "We have to do a better job at the end of the game. And we have to play better defense the whole game."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn't think it will be difficult for his players to put the ACC tournament out of their minds.

"A lot of times, it's easier to get over a loss than over a win," Krzyzewski said.

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