Brand: Rebounding will be key against physical Spartans
Posted: Tuesday March 23, 1999 10:11 PM
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Elton Brand lowers his head, his voice trailing off.
He remembers when Duke played Michigan State in Chicago in December, and he's embarrassed.
The Blue Devils won 73-67 in the Great Eight Shootout in one of their closest games of the season. What happened on the boards was not so close.
Duke was coming off a loss to Cincinnati, its only defeat in running up a 36-1 record entering the Final Four. Brand, out of shape at the time, and Duke were pounded on the offensive boards 25-5.
Brand, a 6-foot-8 and 270-pound center, promises that will not happen again when the teams meet in Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"We got up 13-0 and then all of the sudden they were killing us on the boards," Brand said of the Dec. 2 game. "I wasn't in the best of shape, and as a team we weren't in good running shape, or boxing-out shape. We couldn't even get a rebound at one point."
Brand, who got three rebounds in that game, was asked if he remembered getting any rebounds at all against the Spartans.
"Maybe one rebound, half a rebound, a tip," he said.
Three games later, Brand would be benched by coach Mike Krzyzewski in a move that eventually turned the sophomore's season around.
Almost three months later, Brand returned to Chicago to play DePaul, this time as a star. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds in a 32-point win.
"I was working so hard to try to be the best but I was tired," Brand said of the Michigan State game. "I missed two wide-open layups sprinting down the court. I had the same opportunity [against DePaul] and I threw it in with one hand and coach was like, 'Do you remember that Michigan State game?' Sure enough, I did."
Krzyzewski didn't need to look at the tape again this week to recall Michigan State's strength.
"They rebound offensively the best because they made a commitment to it -- and they have the players," he said. "They keep fresh people in, too. They go eight or nine people deep and as a result they don't have to pace themselves."
In that first meeting, the Blue Devils limited Spartans star Mateen Cleaves to 3-for-17 shooting.
"He's the type of guy who needs the ball all the time so you just have to work hard to deny him the basketball," Duke guard William Avery said. "With his team, they need him to make plays for them. With our team, it's different for me."
Krzyzewski cautioned against paying too much attention to a game played four months ago.
"It is relevant for both of us because we got a chance face-to-face to see that 'He is that tall' or 'He is that big,'" Krzyzewski said. "But we've two different teams. Both of us are so much more improved than we were at that point."
As are Brand and Cleaves.
"The two best players are in incredibly better shape than they were at that time of the year," Krzyzewski said.
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