Duke won't be denied
Blue Devils rally from 22-point deficit to top Maryland
Updated: Sunday April 01, 2001 2:23 PM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Duke was down by 22 points and head coach Mike Krzyzewski didn't mince words.
"You're losing by so much, you can't play any worse," he told the top-ranked Blue Devils during a timeout. "So what are you worried about, losing by 40?"
Duke turned things around in a record way, digging itself out of its biggest hole of the season and into another NCAA championship game in a dome that's been a lucky home.
The Blue Devils rallied yet again against Maryland, this time for a 95-84 victory Saturday night and a chance at another national championship in the Metrodome.
"It's a 40-minute game and they beat us for 12 minutes," said Duke freshman Chris Duhon, who had 10 points and six assists. "If you're going to beat us, you've got to do it for 40."
Shane Battier, the national player of the year, had 25 points for Duke (34-4), which will play Arizona for the title Monday night on the same court where it won its last title in 1992.
"It's going to be a special night," Battier said. "You can't get two better teams, coaches and traditions in this game."
It will be Duke's seventh title game under Krzyzewski, who moved into a tie for second place with Kentucky head coach Adolph Rupp with his ninth Final Four victory. UCLA's John Wooden holds the record with 21.
The fourth meeting of the season between Duke and its Atlantic Coast Conference rival Terrapins (25-11) gave the Blue Devils their third win in the series. Each involved a comeback from a double-digit deficit, but none was anywhere near this one.
"That was in the back of my mind when we were down 20," Battier said. "I was hoping that trend would continue."
The Blue Devils trailed 49-38 at halftime and set the Final Four record for biggest comeback from a halftime deficit. The previous high was 10 when Kentucky rallied from a 41-31 margin to beat Utah 78-69 in the 1998 title game.
The NCAA couldn't confirm that 22 points was the largest comeback in Final Four history, but surely it must have been among the greatest.
"This team has a lot of heart," Krzyzewski said. "It's the youngest team, so we're prone to getting nervous. But one of the biggest hearts I've coached is Jason Williams, and he carried us on his back."
Williams, Duke's other All-American, bounced back from a dreadful first half to finish with 23 points, including the 3-pointer that capped the comeback and gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game, 73-72 with 6:52 to play.
"I just thought we needed a sense of urgency. I thought that was the main thing for us," Williams said. "Take it in steps. We weren't going to get it back in one shot. We did a good job doing that."
Maryland, in its first Final Four appearance, led by 15 points in the first game between the teams this season, only to see Duke rally from 10 down in the final minute for an overtime win. The Terrapins were up by 11 earlier this month in the semifinals of the ACC tournament and lost.
They used a great start and took advantage of poor shooting by Duke to go up 39-17 with 6:57 to play in the first half. Duke needed just four minutes to cut the lead in half.
"Well, nobody's 22 points better than Duke," Maryland head coach Gary Williams said. "I knew they'd make a run. I thought we had enough to sustain it."
Maryland's Juan Dixon scored 16 of his 19 points in the opening 20 minutes as the Terrapins shot 55 percent (17-for-31). Duke, which set NCAA records this season for 3-pointers made and attempted, was just 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.
Even with Williams, who averaged 28.8 points in the first four games of the tournament, still struggling with his shooting, Duke chipped away and closed within one point three times.
Then Williams, who missed 11 of his first 14 shots, nailed a 3-pointer to give Duke the lead with just under seven minutes left.
Maryland didn't back down and the lead changed hands four times until Duke took it for good at 78-77 on two free throws by Carlos Boozer with 4:43 to play.
The Terrapins had no answer this time and, with Boozer scoring inside and Williams penetrating the lane, the Blue Devils started to pull away.
"They got us into foul trouble," Gary Williams said. "When it gets close like that, you've got to take advantage of your opportunities, and we didn't do that. Duke was very aggressive in the second half."
Lonny Baxter, who had been a force inside for Maryland, had 10 points and 10 rebounds and fouled out with 2:48 to play.
With 3:35 to play there was a violent collision between Duhon and Maryland's Steve Blake when they chased a loose ball near midcourt.
Duhon fell to the ground and his head banged hard against the floor. Both players were down for a few moments, then Blake took a seat on the Maryland bench and Drew Nicholas took his free throws, making both.
Duhon was helped up by Krzyzewski and the team trainer, and barely moved his feet on the way to the locker room. Nevertheless, he was back on the bench a short time later, and returned to the game in the final minute.
Boozer, who broke a bone in his foot in the second game between the two -- Maryland's only win -- had 19 points. Nate James, who won the ACC tournament game against the Terrapins with a tip-in with 1.3 seconds left, had nine points and nine rebounds.
"The offensive and defensive combination Casey Sanders and Carlos Boozer gave us was the best game we've had from big men inside all year," Krzyzewski said.
Duke finished 7-for-27 from 3-point range and was outrebounded 51-35.
Maryland scored the first seven points of the game. Duke was within 16-10 just over six minutes in.
The Terrapins then went on a 23-7 run that ended with a 3-pointer by Blake with 6:57 left that put them up by 22 points.
Duke missed its first eight 3-point attempts of the game and Maryland made five of its first six.
The Blue Devils started chipping away with James hitting their first 3-pointer of the game. As they began to get even on the boards, the Blue Devils got back within 46-38 on two free throws by Duhon with 1:13 left.
Boozer missed a chance to cut into the lead even more by missing two free throws with 30 seconds left. Maryland held for a last shot and Dixon made it a long one, hitting a 3-pointer from 30 feet with three seconds left.
"That was a huge shot by Juan to give is the 11-point lead but we just weren't able to sustain anything in the second half," Gary Williams said.
The Blue Devils made the same trip to Minneapolis they did in 1992, when they repeated as national champions by beating Michigan, winning the first two rounds in Greensboro, N.C., and the regional in Philadelphia.