Duke Stymies Hoosiers, 81-78
By Steve Berkowitz
However, Duke's starting forward, Brian Davis, and outstanding sixth man, sophomore swingman Grant Hill, were injured. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said their statuses for Monday night's championship game against Michigan were unknown, but Davis, the Blue Devils' best defensive player, seems to be more questionable than Hill. Davis hurt his left ankle, Hill a knee.
Junior point guard Bobby Hurley led Duke with a career-best-tying 26 points. He made a school-record-tying six three-point goals in nine tries. His performance was crucial, since Indiana limited senior all-American center Christian Laettner to eight points on two-of-eight shooting.
Duke (33-2) held the Hoosiers scoreless for the first 5:53 of the second half and limited them to three points during the half's first 10:20. The remarkable stand completed a stunning turnaround from a 12-point deficit two minutes before halftime. Over the remainder of the first half and that first 10:20 of the second, Duke outscored Indiana 31-6.
However, the Hoosiers (27-7) made the final minute as difficult as possible. With Duke leading 73-64 and starters Damon Bailey, Alan Henderson and Calbert Cheaney and key reserve Greg Graham having fouled out, Indiana used three three-point goals in 25 seconds by sophomore guard Todd Leary to get within 77-73 with 27 seconds to play.
Duke then hit one free throw and Indiana two to make it 78-75, and when the Blue Devils turned the ball over, the Hoosiers had a chance to tie. However, senior guard Jamal Meeks missed a three-point try with 23 seconds left and the Blue Devils finally secured the game on two free throws by sophomore forward Antonio Lang with 13 seconds to play.
A three-pointer by Indiana's Matt Nover and one free throw by Duke's Cherokee Parks accounted for the final margin.
Michigan (25-8) advanced to the championship game with a 76-72 victory over Cincinnati in tonight's first semifinal. Duke defeated Michigan in mid-December, 88-85, in a scintillating overtime game in Ann Arbor, Mich., that served as the official coming out party for Michigan's Fab Five freshmen.
It will be the Blue Devils' third consecutive appearance in the national final. They can become the first team to repeat as national champions since UCLA won seven consecutive titles from 1967 to 1973, and the first team to remain No. 1 in the nation from preseason through postseason since Indiana did so in 1976.
If Duke wins Monday night, Krzyzewski, who tonight defeated his mentor, Indiana Coach Bob Knight, will surpass UCLA legend John Wooden on the NCAA tournament winning percentage list.
But Krzyzewski said tonight that Davis was being X-rayed and is thought to possibly have a high sprain of his left ankle -- the same injury that sidelined Parks and Grant Hill for several weeks this season. If that is the case, Krzyzewski said, there is "no way" Davis will play Monday night.
"The signs are more positive than negative," team doctor Frank Bassett said. "But it's very painful right now. I'm not saying he can't play. He'll be able to play if he can stand the pain."
Krzyzewski was more optimistic about Hill, who banged his knee in a second-half fall.
After trailing 39-27 with a little more than two minutes left in the first half, Duke moved within 42-37 by halftime. And the Blue Devils had to be most pleased with their position.
Krzyzewski and his players had talked all week about the need for a strong defensive effort. That said, Indiana came out and made 12 of its first 14 shots, including eight in a row.
In addition, Laettner -- Duke's best player -- had a rough half. He scored just six point on one-of-six shooting. He didn't score until more than nine minutes had been played, but the height of his frustration came in the latter stages of the half, when he twice missed the front end of one-and-ones in a span of 1:20. He entered the game having made 20 consecutive free throws.
"The game was closer at halftime than it should have been," Krzyzewski said. "They played a lot better than five points" better than Duke.
While Duke's coaches conferred outside the locker room at halftime, Duke's players talked among themselves.
"We just said we weren't playing as hard as Indiana," Hurley said. "And usually, that's what we do best -- outwork teams."
That's precisely what happened in the second half. Duke began slowly, but picked up steam quickly after Cheaney, Indiana's leading scorer, was called for an offensive foul -- his third foul.
After a basket by Lang made it 42-39, Bailey committed his third and fourth fouls in a matter of just four seconds. After Grant Hill missed a jumper, Bailey drove in for a shot that was partially blocked. To Knight, it looked as if a foul had been committed. He ranted, and referee Ted Valentine, standing in front of Indiana's bench, called a technical foul after 1:54 had been played.
Hurley made both free throws. On the ensuing inbound play, Davis -- his jersey already bloodied -- set a screen for Hurley. Hurley ran Chris Reynolds into Davis, who was a football player in high school. Reynolds thudded to the floor the way a wide receiver thuds to the turf when blind-sided on a crossing pattern -- shoulders first, feet up.
Hurley drove past and fed Grant Hill for a shot in the lane that put Duke in front, 43-42. Laettner blocked a shot beneath the basket by Cheaney, and the ball went out of bounds off Cheaney. Laettner then scored, putting Duke in front 45-43.
Indiana called a timeout so Knight could settle his team and yell at the officials some more. He beckoned over lead official John Clougherty and screamed, "What did I say?" to earn the technical foul.
"The official told Cheaney :an Indiana co-captain: that the technical was called because the bench jumped up," Knight said. "Those were his exact words. All I'll say is that's the first and only time I've ever been assessed a technical -- or seen anybody assessed one -- because the bench jumped up."
After the timeout, Duke turned up its defense to suffocation level.
Nover tried a shot in the lane against Laettner. He missed, Laettner grabbed the rebound and Hurley made a three-pointer.
Duke even broke up a two-on-one by Indiana, and proceeded to make it 50-42 on two free throws by Davis, as the Blue Devils entered the one-and-one with 14 1/2 minutes left.
The Hoosiers finally scored, moving within 50-45 on a three-pointer by Graham. However, Duke added eight more points to its lead while Indiana went another four minutes without scoring. A three-point play by Parks put the Blue Devils ahead 58-45 with 10 1/2 minutes to play.
"The first five minutes of the second half it all fell to pieces," said Graham, who had a team-high 18 points. "I don't know what happened."
Said Indiana forward Eric Anderson: "They picked it up a notch. Stuff didn't go our way and our intensity kind of dissipated."
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