Florida sends No. 1 Duke packing from Bracketville
Posted: Saturday March 25, 2000 12:48 PM
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Duke made it easy for Florida, unraveling in a surprising late-game collapse.
Brett Nelson scored 15 points and Mike Miller added 10, including four crucial free throws in the final minute, as fifth-seeded Florida upset the top-seeded Blue Devils 87-78 on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals.
Florida outscored Duke 13-0 in the last four minutes.
Just how stunning was it? Duke (29-5) had won 26 straight games in the East since 1986 and was 21-3 as the top seed.
"I think it's bigger news when Duke loses," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose Gators (27-7) will play the Seton Hall-Oklahoma State winner for a spot in the Final Four. "You play not to lose when you play against a team like Duke."
Nelson and his teammates played to win and atoned for Duke's 70-65 win over the Gators in the 1994 Final Four. Overshadowed by Duke's freshman wizard, Jason Williams, Nelson outplayed his counterpart decisively. Williams scored 13 points, but he took 20 shots, hitting just six and went 1-for-9 from long range.
"We're really excited," said Nelson, who hit three 3-pointers and had four assists and only one turnover. "Duke was the No. 1 team in the country. To beat Duke is a great feeling. But we have to focus because we want to reach the mountaintop. We have a few more games to do that."
The Blue Devils lost because they couldn't shoot straight from long range, converting just 3-of-19 3-pointers after going 2-for-17 against Kansas in the second round.
Naturally, there were tears in the Duke locker room afterward. They didn't last long, though, and that's understandable. Duke has been to 12 Final Fours and the program excelled this season despite the departure of four players to the NBA after last year's loss to Connecticut in the national championship.
"This has been as gratifying of a year as I've ever had," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The loss to Florida isn't going to change that. If you expect me to feel bad, you're crazy. What a journey my kids have given me this year."
The unexpected end to the journey came after the Gators rebounded from a 74-69 deficit with 5:39 to go.
Duke, which went five minutes without a basket in the first half, went cold again when the game was on the line, missing six 3s and not getting a basket for the final 4:45.
"We've got good shooters," said Duke's lone senior, Chris Carrawell, who finished with 16 points. "We went out firing all of our bullets. That's all you can ask."
Duke's loss left the tournament with only one remaining top seed, Michigan State in the Midwest Regional. Arizona was knocked out in the second round in the West, and Stanford was eliminated in the second round in the South.
The Blue Devils, who committed 22 turnovers, were not bothered so much by the Florida press as they were own mistakes and errant shots. They committed 22 turnovers.
Still, they seemed set to finally take control after Williams hit a 3-pointer with 6:37 left for a 73-66 lead. But Nelson hit a 3 for Florida and Teddy Dupay's three-point play tied it for the 12th time, 74-74, with 4:45 left.
Another 3 by Dupay, who had 12 points, and a layup by Brent Wright gave the Gators the lead for good, 79-78 with 2:08 to go.
"It's a huge win confidence-wise," said Udonis Haslem, who had 13 points for the Gators. "But at the same time, we came here to win two games, and we've only won one."
While the Blue Devils continued to fire and miss, the Gators, who used 10 players and switched from the press to a zone defense in the final three minutes, calmly hit six straight free throws in the final minute.
"We hoped we had fatigued them enough," Donovan said. "I wanted to wait as long as I could to switch."
Shane Battier led Duke with 20 points.
Trailing 40-33 at the half, Duke scored seven straight points in the first minute of the second period to tie the game for the fifth time.
Nate James missed a chance at a three-point play to start the
run, but Battier converted the third offensive rebound off the
missed free throw and then hit a layup for the tie.