Duke's Rally Falls Short, Kansas Stands Tall
By David Aldridge
The Jayhawks need just one more chance to be convincing because they played outstanding defense down the stretch in holding off Duke's comeback to defeat the Blue Devils, 66-59, in their national semifinal game today at soldout Kemper Arena. The win continued Kansas' improbable season, one in which it has overcome every conceivable obstacle.
Tonight, the Jayhawks (26-11) got the ultimate all-around performance from their all-around all-America, senior forward Danny Manning. Manning scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds, four steals, two assists and six blocks. He was outstanding, but he was far from the only reason Kansas won.
It also won because of 20 points by guard Milt Newton (from Coolidge High School in Washington). It won because point guard Kevin Pritchard made a tough jumper late in the game when the Jayhawks were being outscored, 19-6, and losing a 16-point second-half lead that had developed from the 14-0 margin it built at the start.
Mostly, however, it won because it forced Duke (28-7) into 34 percent shooting, including 27.9 percent in the second half (12 of 43). Guard Kevin Strickland, who had been averaging 20 points a game during the postseason for the Blue Devils, scored just 10 today. Danny Ferry had 19 to lead Duke.
Newton and Pritchard were defensive catalysts, facing up on Strickland and point guard Quin Snyder and keeping them from making the entry passes to Ferry and Robert Brickey inside. They did that while pushing the Duke guards out of shooting range, as well.
But it all flowed from Manning. Brickey said he didn't know why he was tenative inside, but, truthfully, it was due to Manning, who covered both sides of the lane all day. He swatted shots, he altered more.
"Manning probably played the best defense I've seen all year," Strickland said. "He was everywhere. Usually, you don't think of Manning as being a good defensive player. But he made everybody who came inside the lane alter the shot. He either altered it or blocked it."
The soft-spoken Manning, always one to look to teammates first, wouldn't say this made up for the 1986 Final Four game against Duke, when he scored just four points in 23 foul-troubled minutes. But it was close.
"I think it was the complete game of the tournament for me," he said. "I even had seven turnovers. I had everything. :But: I could score no points, and if we win the national championship, I'll be happy."
Duke had to use up everything on defense after playing a tentative first half. Much like the two clubs' last meeting in Lawrence, which Duke won in overtime, the Blue Devils came out flat, the Jayhawks inspired. Over the first four minutes, Kansas set Duke on its heels by running off the game's first 14 points.
"I think the thing Coach :Larry: Brown tried to emphasize before the game was that we're a great team right now as far as being a team," Kansas guard Scooter Barry said. "That's the thing that's gotten us to where we are right now."
Duke thought it was ready for a strong start by Kansas, but not the 14-0 deficit it faced at the 15:28 mark when Newton scored his fifth straight point, a transition layup off a steal by Clint Normore.
But Duke managed to stay in the game, getting within 38-27 at the half by scoring the last four points. Manning had 15 points as Kansas had success against the fronting of Brickey and Ferry's "man" defense.
Time for a speech. The man to give it was Duke senior forward Billy King, who finally was unable to handle someone defensively after shutting down some of the country's best guards all tournament.
"I told them, 'Hey, if we're going to lose this game, let's lose it playing hard,' " said King. " 'Let's lose it taking our shots. Let's not play like we did in the first half.' "
The Blue Devils didn't play that way. They went down by 16 points early on a Newton three-point play, but they came back. Ferry was particularly effective on the boards (eight offensive rebounds, 12 overall). Manning played a little tenatively after picking up his third foul with 14:37 to play, and Duke started getting inside.
Ferry scored from the left baseline, put in a Brickey miss, then got fouled and made both free throws after grabbing another offensive rebound. It was 49-39 with 11:23 to go. Then, Greg Koubek (eight points) banked in a 10-footer. All of a sudden, Duke was within eight.
Manning scored, but Koubek made a three-pointer. The lead was down to seven. And Duke kept coming. Kansas' lead crept back to nine, but Duke was cutting off the Kansas offense. It doubled down on Manning and none of Kansas' other players were looking to the basket.
Ferry got inside for a leaning bank. Snyder stole the ball from Manning and fed Strickland for a breakaway dunk. Then Ferry overplayed Chris Piper, stole the ball out front and went in for his own slam to cut the lead to three with 4:17 to play.
Time was called and Brown looked around in his huddle. His players were already exhausted. He looked to the player Brown has said was the finest he has ever coached.
"Coach looked at Danny in the huddle," Barry said, "and said, 'We've got six minutes left. If you want to take control, now's the time.' I think Danny took that to heart, and that's when he started to really go after the ball. And at the same time, we wanted to get our defensive intensity back up."
"Coach always says that," Manning replied with a laugh. " 'Hey, take over, kiddo.' "
First, though, Pritchard hit a tough shot after posting up down low. Snyder responded and the lead was three with 2:29 to go. Kansas spread the floor and Pritchard got open on a backdoor cut. He missed the layup, but there was Manning to tap in the rebound.
But Manning had one great defensive play left. The Jayhawks were up by six, but Ferry faked Manning off his feet and drove to the hoop. From behind, Manning swatted away the shot and grabbed the rebound. That was about it, as Kansas made seven of nine free throws in the final two minutes.
Having to make every defensive possession a critical one had finally taken its toll on Duke, which had just two field goals in the final four minutes of play.
"Our defense is great," Duke assistant Mike Brey said, "but that puts a lot of pressure on your defense, when you bury yourself like that. You have to fight and fight. You've got to get something on the offensive end. You've got to get some easy ones."
And Manning has one more chance to capture a national championship. He has been a great player for the Jayhawks, and because he's so unselfish, it looks like he doesn't have the killer instinct. Even today, Brickey said he scored a "quiet" 25.
"It feels nice," Manning said. "No matter what happens in this tournament, I'll never forget 1986. Whenever I walk on the court in this tournament, I'm going to try to do what it takes to win games."
© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company