Trojans' Magical Ride Halted By Top-Ranked Blue Devils
March 24, 2001
Duke Post-Game Press Conference
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PHILADELPHIA - Duke's been down this road before.
Jason Williams scored 28 points and Shane Battier added 20 points and 10rebounds as Duke beat Southern California 79-69 Saturday night to advance toits 13th Final Four and ninth under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
When the final buzzer sounded, Battier ran and hugged freshman Chris Duhon.
'Chris was the closest guy around so I grabbed him because I was lookingfor anyone to hug at that point,' said Battier, a senior making his secondtrip to a Final Four. 'It's something in my old age I've come to appreciate onthe last time around.'
The opponent next weekend in Minneapolis will be very familiar - the BlueDevils will face Maryland for the fourth time this season. The Atlantic CoastConference schools both won regional finals over teams from the Pac-10, withthe Terrapins beating Stanford 87-73 in the West.
Duke (33-4) won two of the three games against Maryland, but each win was bytwo points, while Maryland's victory was by 11.
It will be the second straight year teams from the same conference meet inthe semifinals. Michigan State and Wisconsin of the Big Ten did it in 2000.
'I'm very happy for our conference and for Gary (Williams) and his staff,'Krzyzewski said, referring to the Terrapins coach who's making his firstappearance in a Final Four. 'Two teams in the Final Four from our conference,that's absolutely terrific.'
The Blue Devils are 9-1 in regional finals under Krzyzewski and the latestwin has them back in the Final Four for the second time in three years.
Their last national championship came in 1992 and it was on the same trip asthis year's run - the first and second rounds in Greensboro, N.C., theregionals in Philadelphia and the Final Four in Minneapolis.
'Regional championship games, I always felt, are the toughest games towin,' Krzyzewski said. 'You've reached the promised land and once you'rethere you have a chance to get the ultimate prize.
'I've always been fortunate in those games. Big players have stepped up.Tonight, really, a freshman stepped up, not that Shane and Jason weren'tterrific, but to see Chris Duhon drive us to a Final Four was very gratifyingfor me.'
Duhon finished with 13 points.
The Trojans (24-10) were looking for their third Final Four berth and firstsince 1954.
Duke's two All-Americans, Battier and the sophomore guard Williams, endedthose dreams with two more great performances in the NCAA tournament.
Battier had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the four games,while Williams' 28 points against USC was one off his average over thefirst three games.
Battier and Williams combined for all but 10 of Duke's 43 first-half pointsas the Blue Devils took a five-point lead.
Then each time the Trojans seemed ready to make a run, the Blue Devils hadan answer.
Three times USC was within seven points. The last two timesWilliams scored to put Duke back up by at least nine.
The final killer for the Trojans came from Duhon.
Sam Clancy, who led Southern California with 19 points, hit a turnaroundwith 5:47 left to make it 67-59. Battier missed a shot on the next possessionbut Duke kept the ball when a foul was called.
After taking the inbounds pass, Duhon hit a 3-pointer from in front of theDuke bench to make it 70-59 with 5:17 to play. The Trojans were never closerthan eight points the rest of the way and Duhon added another 3 with 2:59 toplay as the shot clock was winding down.
'The guy who was guarding me kept leaving me and it was like, `I dare youto shoot,'' Duhon said. 'Once I hit that first one I had a lot of confidenceflowing through my blood and my teammates kept kicking them to me and I keptletting them go.'
Battier had confidence in his teammate.
'By no stretch of the imagination is this a two-man team,' he said.'Tonight they wanted to leave Chris open and Chris showed why he's aspectacular player.'
Southern California coach Henry Bibby admitted leaving Duhon open was partof the game plan.
'We thought they had two players who could beat you. We played thepercentages,' he said. 'Duhon's a good player on the number one team. Heshould make some buckets.
'I'm very proud of these guys. All along I said when we had three or fourplayers playing we could play with anyone in the country.'
Duke started the game by hitting 10 of its first 15 shots, but SouthernCalifornia's matchup zone had a lot more success in the second half.
The Blue Devils missed 17 of their first 24 shots in the final 20 minutes,but it seemed Williams or Battier came up with a big play to offset theshooting slump.
Duke's biggest lead of the first half came at 32-20 when Dunleavy hit a3-pointer with 7:50 to play, the Blue Devils' last field goal for 5:10.
A layup by Duhon ended the drought and made it 40-30, but Scalabrine hitconsecutive 3s for the Trojans to make it 40-36 with 1:08 left. Duke got thelead back to 43-36, but Desmon Farmer's drive with 23 seconds left broughtSouthern California within five points at halftime.
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer