Down by 13, Devils Edge Gators, 70-65
By Ken Denlinger
Cherokee Parks retrieved his own 10-foot miss from two Florida defenders, then followed with the layup that allowed Duke to overcome a 13-point second-half deficit and earn a 70-65 victory.
The 28-5 Blue Devils try for their third National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship in four years Monday at 9:22 p.m. against 30-3 Arkansas, which beat Arizona, 91-82, in the other semifinal today at Charlotte Coliseum.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski called this comeback "a seniors' game." And the three players to whom he referred -- Grant Hill, Antonio Lang and Marty Clark -- provided most of the critical plays. They also upped their NCAA tournament record to an astonishing 18-1.
Hill had 25 points and played exceptional defense on Florida's main outside threat, Craig Brown, holding him to eight points. Lang, who overcame first-half foul problems, drew a critical charge after Parks's basket and scored the final points on a dunk.
Clark stripped the ball from Florida point guard Dan Cross with 47 seconds left and the Gators down 66-65.
"He spun inside," Clark said of Cross. "That gave me the chance to close the gap and that was that."
Cross thought he was fouled by Clark. He also was the Gator called for charging Lang -- and disagreed with that call. But he did not protest either decision very strenuously and added: "You have to keep playing basketball."
And play both teams did. This was a game that featured what both teams do best -- defense. The Gators held Duke to 36 percent shooting the first half, then missed two of every three shots they tried the second half.
Florida Coach Lon Kruger had a fine summation: "Grant Hill hit some big-time shots, threes when they had to have them. He also penetrated and kicked :the ball to open teammates:.
"That's why they're Duke."
Freshman point guard Jeff Capel put the Blue Devils ahead for good, 65-63, with a three-pointer from the right baseline on a feed from Hill.
Hill followed with a pair of foul shots. Then Duke clinched it with the 6-foot-11 Parks following his own miss with 15 seconds left and Lang drawing a charge on one end and getting that dunk at the other.
Very quickly after the tipoff, the Gators began showing off their stuff for those here and on prime-time television perhaps watching for the first time.
The front-court tandem of Andrew DeClercq and Dametri Hill introduced themselves by outplaying the more heralded Parks and Lang in the first half.
Then some Gators reserves, most notably inside player Martii Kuisma and outside player Jason Anderson, got into the act with timely scoring and rebounds.
And when the Gators were finished with their good work at halftime they left with their largest lead, seven points, and a standing ovation from their supporters.
The opening 20 minutes were not reflected by the 39-32 halftime score. It was much closer, with one team doing the same sort of things almost immediately after the other.
Want a spectacular block? There was the 6-10 DeClercq making up distance on Clark and swatting away his breakaway layup. So, several minutes later, Grant Hill blocked an Anderson shot near the basket.
Duke got into the bonus free-throw situation first, with 10:27 left before halftime. However, it also was first to lose a pivotal player to fouls, Lang picking up his third and playing just 10 total minutes.
Lead changes were routine, with neither team able to build more than five points until the late Florida surge.
With 3:52 to play, Florida pulled ahead on an Anderson layup. Then Dametri Hill followed with a pair of foul shots.
The Blue Devils have been in this situation lots of times -- and everyone expected a burst immediately after halftime.
Guess what? It was the Gators who made the opening two shots, Dametri Hill getting the first inside and Brown knocking down a two-pointer with Grant Hill's hand in his face. Down 11 points all of a sudden and with 18:44 still left, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski called time out.
"They were just having their way with us," Parks said. "If we didn't step it up, they'd have been up by 30."
Surprisingly, DeClercq hit a jumper from the top of the key almost immediately after the timeout and the Gators had a 13-point lead, 45-32.
Grant Hill hit a three-pointer and Lang a pair of foul shots on offense -- and the Duke players pounded the floor in their traditional sign to get with it on defense.
"Come on," Lang yelled.
Slowly, the Blue Devils started doing just that. On one possession, the Gators had five shots at the basket -- and came away with nothing.
At the other end, Grant Hill was hitting two drives and an open shot from the free-throw line, Clark was nailing a three-pointer and Lang was hitting two foul shots.
All of a sudden, with 7:11 left, Florida had a one-point lead, 58-57.
The Gators made some nice defensive stops, but the crowd sensed something inevitable was taking shape. Sure enough, with 4:41 left, Grant Hill put a move on Brown in the lane and hit the drive that gave Duke a 61-60 lead. Then Hill sank 1-of-2 foul shots a minute later.
Florida refused to wilt. However, as Kruger later lamented, Duke was Duke.
© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company