Blue Devils' season ends in disappointment
Posted: Wednesday April 07, 1999 07:58 PM
SAN JOSE, Calif. (CNN/SI) - Duke's bid for men's and women's national championships this year ended Sunday when the women lost to Purdue in the title game.
The third-seeded Blue Devils were trying to upset their second No. 1 seed of the tournament - after defeating three-time defending champion Tennessee in the East Regional final.
Purdue, the No. 1 team in the nation, was favored to win the title with Tennessee out of the running.
Duke had a halftime lead but couldn't hold sustain it over the final 20 minutes Sunday night, and lost to top-ranked Purdue 62-45. Afterward, guard Georgia Schweitzer pulled her long ponytail around to cover her face and sobbed quietly.
"It's been a great year, and I love these guys," she said. "It's really sad it had to end this way."
Duke (29-7) made its first Final Four with a stunning upset of defending national champion Tennessee in the East Regional finals. Then the Blue Devils moved on to defeat Georgia 81-69.
At the same time, Duke's men were predictably charging through their tournament, landing in the title game Monday night against Connecticut. The only other school to send both a men's and women's team to the Final Four was Georgia in 1983, but neither of those teams advanced to the championship.
On Sunday night, it appeared as if the Duke women might just pull off another upset because Purdue couldn't manage to score in the first half. The Boilermakers hit just 8-of-26 from the floor.
Both teams were slow and sloppy, but Duke appeared energized in the waning moments of the first half and went into the locker room with a 22-17 lead. It was the lowest point total for a half in a women's title game.
Duke coach Gail Goestenkors attributed the sluggishness to nerves on both sides.
"Honestly, before the game, I thought we were ready to play. I thought we were relaxed and focused and we had one of our best warmups of the year," she said. "I think it hit a lot of the kids when they sang the national anthem and they are looking up at the flag, and all of the sudden they realize, 'Hey, this is a big deal.'"
Purdue woke up in the second half. Senior guard Ukari Figgs, who didn't score at all in the first half, had 18 points for the Boilermakers as Duke's game stagnated.
"They play good pressure defense," Duke's Hilary Howard said. "We've seen that before, but unfortunately, we just didn't adjust to it."
Goestenkors, who has coached the Blue Devils for seven years, has led her team to five straight tournament appearances. Duke's women have finished on top of the Atlantic Coast Conference for the past two consecutive years.
Coach G -- a nickname that mirrors Duke men's head coach Mike Krzyzewski's easier-to-pronounce moniker, Coach K -- has an overall record of 147-68 with the Blue Devils. So she tried to paint a positive overall picture on the program despite going home without a title.
"You know, we were last in the ACC, and I don't think we were a very-well-respected program, overall. We've come a long way," she said. "I told the team after the game we have had a wonderful journey and they have set a new standard for Duke women's basketball. We have raised the bar."
Still, after Goestenkors dutifully answered all the media's questions, she cast her eyes downward and bit her lip. For a moment, she looked close to tears.
Then she slowly rose and walked back to the locker room, back to her team.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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