Arizona vs. Duke
March 31, 2001
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - It will be Arizona's lightning quick Wildcats against theresilient Duke Blue Devils in Monday night's NCAA championship game.
Arizona used a big second half and a fierce zone defense to shut downdefending national champion Michigan State 80-61 in the first semifinalSaturday night. Duke overcame a 22-point first-half deficit and advanced with a95-84 victory over Maryland in a battle of Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.
The championship game matches coaches Lute Olson of Arizona and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, both finalists this year for the basketball Hall of Fame.Both have taken their schools to this championship before, Olson in 1997 andKrzyzewski in 1991 and 1992, the last repeat champions.
After beating Illinois and Michigan State, Arizona will be after its thirdNo. 1 seed against Duke. The only other time a team has beaten three top-seededschools was Arizona in 1997. Duke is looking for its third victory over aPacific-10 team after knocking off UCLA and Southern California to reachMinneapolis.
The championship game matches a pair of outstanding sophomore guards -Duke's Jason Williams and Arizona's Jason Gardner. Williams scored 23 pointsand hit the 3-pointer that put Duke ahead to stay with 6:46 left againstMaryland. Gardner led Arizona with 21 points and had three of a dozen stealsthat staggered Michigan State.
Williams' backcourt partner is freshman Chris Duhon, who had 10 points andsix assists against Maryland and was dazed by a late collision with the Terps'Steve Blake. Gardner teams with Gilbert Arenas, who scored 17 points and hadsix steals against Michigan State and also missed playing time with a bruisedright arm.
Both expect to play Monday night.
'I'll definitely play the next game, the national championship,' Duhonsaid. 'There's no guarantee I'll make it back here.'
Both teams have important seniors up front. Duke's Shane Battier is thePlayer of the Year and brought the Blue Devils back against Maryland, scoring25 points. Seven-footer Loren Woods, Arizona's man in the middle, had 11 pointsand eight rebounds against Michigan State.
'It's going to be a special night,' Battier said. 'I don't think youcould have two better teams, two better coaches, two better traditions in thischampionship game. We know Monday night is going to be a special game.'
Battier and Carlos Boozer wore out Maryland down the stretch and Williamsfinished the Terrapins off.
'It's the heart of this team and I think one of the biggest hearts I'vecoached is Jason Williams. He put us on his back there for a while in thesecond half.'
Arizona's other two starters, Michael Wright and Richard Jefferson, managedjust one point between them in the first half against Michigan State but theWildcats still led 32-30 after 20 minutes. Then the quick hands of Arenas andGardner forced a sea of second-half mistakes by the Spartans that put theWildcats in charge.
Wright scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Jefferson, limitedto a single free throw in the first half, finished with 17. But the differencewas the quickness of the sophomore backcourt of Arenas and Gardner. They wereflawless handling the ball with a season-low eight turnovers, More importantwere the dozen steals the Wildcats recorded.
Larceny has been a big part of Arizona's approach all season.
The 12 steals marked the 10th time the Wildcats reached double digits inthat statistic. And they converted 15 turnovers into 21 points. In a game theywon by 19, it was decisive defense.
'Offensively, we did a good job,' Olson said. 'But we won this game onthe defensive end.'
And Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knew it.
'We threw interceptions time and time again,' Izzo said. 'They shot thegap and picked off passes.'
Olson complimented his team.
'We couldn't play better in the second half than what we did,' he said.'We knew it would come down to the boards and turnovers. We felt we couldoutshoot them as long as we didn't give them so many second and thirdefforts.'
That's been Arizona's formula all season, with 231 more rebounds and 52 moresteals than opponents.
And now they have one more game to play.
By HAL BOCK
AP Sports Writer