The top-seeded Blue Devils repay Georgia Tech for their earlier loss with an 85-71 rout in the ACC semifinals.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published March 14, 2004
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Duke senior point guard Chris Duhon found it a difficult truth to accept; the reason for a rare home loss to Georgia Tech less than two weeks ago.
"We just felt they out-toughed us in Durham," he said. "They got every loose ball, every rebound and we didn't fight. Today, we made it a point to fight those guys."
Boy, did he and the Blue Devils ever.
He and the Blue Devils showed more power and determination, embodied in the dominating play of Duhon and sophomore forward Shelden Williams, and blew open a tie early in the second half to beat Tech easily 85-71 in the ACC semifinals on Saturday afternoon before 23,745 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Top-seeded Duke (27-4) goes for its unprecedented sixth consecutive ACC title today against No. 6-seeded Maryland. If Duke cuts down the nets again, it should net a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.
"I knew coming in it was going to be a big, physical game throughout the whole game," said Williams, who finished with a team-high 20 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
But the foul-prone Williams (he was limited to 21 minutes in the 76-68 loss on March 3 to Tech that ended Duke's 41-game homecourt winning streak) had no fouls in 37 minutes.
"Shelden was sensational," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It was incredibly physical in the low post, as physical as I've seen it all year. He handled it with great poise and was a real force for us."
So, too, was Duhon who, despite foul trouble, scored 17 (on 7 of 9 shooting) and added eight assists in 34 minutes. It was Duhon's savvy and moxie that changed the game in the second half.
Tied at 46, junior guard Daniel Ewing hit a 3-pointer, Duhon scored on a drive and freshman forward Luol Deng had a layup and drew a foul off a Duhon drive and dish.
To recap: The Blue Devils needed just 2:17 to take a double-digit lead, 58-48.
"We got beat by a very good basketball team today," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who bristled at the suggestion that Duke might never lose another ACC tournament game and that his up-and-coming team played the role of the Washington Generals.
"In the second half, they had more energy and more strength. When we did stop them or contest their first shot, we couldn't do a good job of getting the rebound. The reason for that is because we allowed too many guys to drive to the middle and we had to start helping, which opened up offensive rebounding lanes."
Including their key burst, the Blue Devils scored on 20 of 22 possessions during the last 14:22. They didn't commit a turnover in the second half.
Enough fight for you?
"It's all the players," Krzyzewski said. "I tell my guys all the time a coach calls plays, but the people who make them work are called players. It is really as efficient as we've been all year. To me, it was beautiful basketball."