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Tested, but not ousted

Duke outlasts Michigan State for title shot vs. UConn

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Posted: Sunday March 28, 1999 09:50 AM

  Elton Brand got in foul trouble and it wasn't a typical Duke performance, but the result was the same. AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Duke hadn't been tested in quite a while. It didn't matter. The answers the Blue Devils gave Saturday night were good enough to get them to the national championship game.

"People said all year, 'Can Duke win a close game?'" All-America center Elton Brand said. "I think we showed it today. It really helps our confidence that we could play maybe not our 'A' game and still beat a great Michigan State team."

The 68-62 victory was top-ranked Duke's second this season over No. 2 Michigan State and both were by six points. This one gives Duke a chance at its third title this decade when it plays third-ranked Connecticut on Monday night.

"One of the biggest adjustments we need to make for UConn is to get our team rest. This was a banging, physical game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Not only were the Spartans physical, but he also said, "they are good and clean. They are a great team."

No one had come close to Duke for most of the season, let alone in this NCAA Tournament, but Michigan State was within three points with 8 1/2 minutes to play and Brand on the bench with foul trouble.

The guards and defense came through and the Blue Devils (37-1) beat the Spartans for their 32nd straight victory.

CNN/SI On Site
John Giannone goes one-on-one with Duke's Elton Brand
JG: Elton, do you feel lucky to have advanced tonight when you guys didn't have your "A" game?

EB: I feel very lucky. It was a tough game. Michigan State, give them all the credit in the world. We really had to grind this one out. We didn't have the usual points that we usually put up on the board, but we still feel great. It was a very satisfying win.

JG: Mike Krzyzewski said afterwards that [Michigan State had] the most physical defense that you guys have seen all year? Your thoughts on that?

EB: I agree. They are always banging and battling on the boards and you just have to be physical with them. We weren't as physical with them in the second half as we were in the first half. But we really raised it up at the end of the second half.

JG: You guys really raised it up, especially, after you went out with your fourth foul with just over 10 minutes left. You were up eight when you went out and you were up seven when you came back 5 1/2 minutes later. How did you manage that?

EB: We have great players and I knew one of them would step up. I was there on the sidelines just waiting. Will [Avery] hit a big 3, Trajan [Langdon] hit a big 3, Corey [Maggette] was getting rebounds and Chris [Carrawell] was playing great defense.

JG: What did you see from Connecticut tonight in the first game that you might see on Monday?

EB: The way that they [run the fast] break. We're really going to have to get back and play defense because they have a lot of talent just like we do. We're looking forward to a war out there.
 

"You get so close. You feel yourself coming back," Michigan State guard Mateen Cleaves said. "We were so close but couldn't get over that hump."

Duke, perhaps one of the best teams ever in college basketball, leads the nation with an average margin of victory of 25.9 points; it was 30 per game in the tournament. There was the lone loss to Cincinnati in November, but only three teams managed to stay closer than 10 points the rest of the season.

One of those was Michigan State (33-5), which lost to the Blue Devils 73-67 in December in the Great Eight, but put itself in a position to beat Duke when Charlie Bell's two free throws with 8:33 left made it 51-48.

Brand was dominating with 17 points and 14 rebounds, but he picked up his fourth foul with 10:12 left on a charge drawn by Cleaves in the open court.

"A few kids stepped up for us when Elton sat down," Krzyzewski said.

Guards Trajan Langdon and William Avery sandwiched 3-pointers around a layup by Michigan State's Morris Peterson and then Avery's drive with 6:14 to play had Duke's lead at 59-50.

"We cut it to three then their All-Americas stepped up," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Trajan hit that big 3, a critical, critical shot. Then Avery, and we were right on him, hits his. But that's what makes them the No. 1 team in the nation."

The Spartans, along with Duke and Connecticut one of three No. 1 seeds to get to the Final Four, were within 68-62 with 17 seconds left when Cleaves scored rebounding his own miss. Corey Maggette added to Duke's foul shooting woes by missing two a second later, but Cleaves' 3-point try with seven seconds left was off and Avery dribbled out the clock.

Brand finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Avery had 14 points and Chris Carrawell 13.

"When we had the 11-, 12-point lead we knew we had to play every possession with all of our heart," Krzyzewski said. "This was a well-earned win by our team."

Morris Peterson led the Spartans, who had won 22 straight games, with 15 points; Andre Hutson had 13 and Cleaves 12.

Michigan State finished 26-for-70 from the field (37.1 percent).

"They did a great job of team defense," Cleaves said. "We missed some open shots but give Duke credit for how they played."

This is Duke's eighth Final Four appearance under Krzyzewski and its fifth in the '90s. The Blue Devils won it all in 1991 and 1992. Another would make Krzyzewski just the fourth coach to win three or more.

CNN/SI On Site
Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins on the key moment of the game for Duke
When Duke gets in trouble, the Blue Devils either go to Elton Brand or Trajan Langdon. The third option, which they went to tonight, was William Avery.

Langdon made the big jumper when [Michigan State] cut it to three. But with Brand on the bench, they had to go to Avery, who then followed with another 3-pointer and then a great drive for two more that put the game out of reach for Michigan State.
 
This is the Spartans' first trip to the Final Four since 1979 when they won the title led by Magic Johnson.

At halftime this looked like another in the long line of Duke blowouts this season with the Blue Devils up 32-20.

The lead reached 36-20 on Avery's breakaway dunk with 18:14 to play, but the Spartans scored 10 straight points to get within 36-30 and they wouldn't go away.

Duke could have had a chance to build a comfortable lead, but went 14-for-27 from the foul line, missing 11 of 24 in the second half.

"When you play that hard you don't know you're tired until the game stops and the free throws are taken when it stops," Krzyzewski said. "Hopefully, we can get refueled and be at our best Monday."

Duke did finish with a 44-40 rebound advantage -- a far cry from the 41-25 advantage Michigan State had in the first meeting -- and it was Brand who made the difference this time with 13 in the first half.

"The difference in the game was still the first-half assault they put on us rebounding," Izzo said. "It was incredible. You have to give Elton Brand credit.

"I'm pleased we battled back and showed the character that got us here."

Cleaves was 3-for-17 from the field in the first game. He was slightly better this time at 5-for-16, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range, and 10 assists.

The start was eerily familiar for the Spartans. In December, Duke took a 17-2 lead to take control early. This time it was 9-2 before Michigan State scored six straight points. But it wasn't long before the Blue Devils had the lead in double figures as Maggette's three-point play gave them a 20-10 lead with 11:38 left.

Michigan State would get as close as six points, 22-16, but the Blue Devils closed the half with a 10-4 run for the 32-20 lead.

The 20 points were the second-lowest total allowed by Duke in a half this season. The lowest was 19 by North Carolina A&T.

 
Related information
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UConn dumps Ohio State, advances to NCAA title game
St. Pete Scenes: Play-by-play of the damned
Stats
Michigan State-Duke Game Summary
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Center Elton Brand thought Duke was fortunate to win (156 K)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thought the Spartans played well (292 K)
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says Duke never let up (188 K)
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