Dunleavy does the damage for Blue Devils
Updated: Tuesday April 03, 2001 7:59 AM
By Albert Lin, CNNSI.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- His father never had a chance to compete on college basketball's highest stage. But Monday night, with Dad looking on, Duke sophomore Mike Dunleavy Jr. made the Final Four his personal showcase. With the Arizona defense -- and the country's eyes -- on Blue Devils stars Shane Battier and Jason Williams, Dunleavy slipped through the cracks to score 21 points and help Duke to its third national title.
"I just said to myself that it's your time -- you have the opportunity, the open shots because Shane and Jason are drawing a lot of attention," Dunleavy said.
After a fantastic first half that ended with Duke ahead by two, Dunleavy single-handedly broke the game open -- twice. With Duke nursing a 40-37 lead early in the second half, Dunleavy started his assault, drilling 3-pointers on three straight possessions to put his team up 10.
"It's like I was lit on fire," Dunleavy said. "It felt like they were going in before I even shot them. Everything kind of slowed down. No question I was feeling it."
Arizona called timeout, and since Dunleavy was huffing and puffing, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski motioned to Nate James to sub in. But when the coach caught Dunleavy's eyes, the sophomore shook his head and said, "Don't do it now." So Krzyzewski kept him in for another three minutes. "I tried not to talk to anyone or say anything," Dunleavy said. "I just wanted to stay in the groove."
The Wildcats cut the lead to 50-48 before a momentum-changing miss by Richard Jefferson on a short banker that would have tied the game. Duke went back up court and Dunleavy began his second charge. He made an open layup off a great feed from Chris Duhon. He slammed one through on the break after a steal. He hit a short jumper from the left side. After a Carlos Boozer dunk, Dunleavy drained another 3, faking a pass and hitting over a couple defenders. All of a sudden, Duke was back up 61-51.
Dunleavy scored 18 points in less than seven minutes, at this juncture totaling more (21) than Battier and Williams combined (20).
"It's about time," Dunleavy said. "I finally made my shots in the second half and was able to give us a little boost."
Arizona threatened again, but the Blue Devils held on as Battier and Williams broke out of their funks to keep the Wildcats at bay. Dunleavy joined the Duke All-Americas on the All-Tournament team.
"Growing up, going through high school, I always felt pretty comfortable in the spotlight, in big-game situations," he said. "And, needless to say, tonight in the second half I found that spot again."
Junior now is one up in the championship category on Senior, whose South Carolina club never won an NCAA title and who went 0-for-4 in NBA Finals as a player and is 0-for-1 as a coach.
After the game, Dunleavy said thanks in his own special way, giving the rim a little kiss after snipping his piece of the net. "That was a basket that was good to me," he said.