Moore than Duke bargained for
Connecticut's stopper comes up huge in clutch
Posted: Tuesday March 30, 1999 02:37 AM
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Ricky Moore made sure the names Langdon and Laettner didn't become synonymous.
Moore, the most famous defensive specialist in America, forced Trajan Langdon to travel with seconds ticking down and Duke trailing by one in the NCAA championship game Monday night. Langdon lost the ball again, and Connecticut celebrated its first national title with a 77-74 victory over Duke.
When it was over, Moore raised his arms to the crowd and walked off the court, a rare player who lifted his team to championship heights just because he could guard anybody.
Christian Laettner, who was sitting in the stands, beat UConn with an incredible buzzer-beater on an inbounds play in the 1990 regional final. This time, Moore made certain that Langdon didn't even get to attempt the game-winning shot.
"I've been privileged to play two of the greatest basketball games," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "In the other one, in 1990, Christian Laettner made that shot."
Laettner didn't have Moore guarding him.
After UConn point guard Khalid El-Amin lofted an airball on a tough running jumper, Langdon got the ball with UConn leading 75-74. Duke didn't call a timeout.
Dribbling between his legs before spinning and driving on Moore, Langdon got his feet tangled and traveled with 5.4 seconds left.
El-Amin hit two free throws, and UConn did what few thought was possible.
"I heard Coach K tell Trajan to go get the ball," Moore said. "I felt if he got it, he wasn't going to do anything with it. It was crunch time. It was me against him. They tried to clear it out, but I stayed solid, I stayed down. I didn't go for any pump-fakes.
"Fortunately, he traveled."
Moore sent Duke reeling for the first time in the Blue Devils' dominant season with seven points during a 15-4 run in the first half. But his biggest play, one that kids in his native Augusta, Ga., will be talking about on the playgrounds for years, came as Langdon was poised to shoot down UConn's quest for an upset.
"We had Ricky Moore," teammate Kevin Freeman said. "No one could stop him."
On offense, or defense.
Moore, who had all of his 13 points in the first half with a rare offensive outburst, made quite a name for himself in this tournament with a talent that usually goes unheralded. He held Ohio State's Scoonie Penn to 11 points and 3-for-13 shooting in the national semifinal.
This came after stellar defensive performances earlier this season against Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves (2-for-15) and Stanford's Arthur Lee (4-for-13).
Guarding his boyhood friend William Avery for some of the game, he started paying more attention to Langdon in the second half. And when Langdon got the ball in the closing seconds, the Ricky Radar was locked in.
Moore got in position as Langdon leaned forward and glided confidently downcourt, looking a little like Grant Hill. After a fearless display of between-the-legs dribbling, Langdon tried to spin on Moore.
Big mistake. The whistle blew, and Duke had blown it.
After El-Amin's free throws, Langdon tried to redeem himself with a drive down the sideline through heavy traffic, but lost the ball.
Mr. Moore's defensive clinic -- and UConn's long wait for a national title -- was over.
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