Duke dodges one
Blue Devils hold off 14th-seeded Colorado State latePosted: Friday March 21, 2003 1:00 AM
Updated: Friday March 21, 2003 2:43 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With leading scorer Dahntay Jones on the bench and a capacity crowd enthusiastically hollering against them, the Duke Blue Devils survived a shaky night out West.
Big Shelden Williams pulled them through.
The 6-foot-9 freshman scored on an offensive rebound with 1:21 to play, then sank two free throws with 44.2 seconds left and the Blue Devils beat Colorado State 67-57 Thursday night in the first round of the West Regional.
The game was nowhere near that one-sided. Third-seeded Duke scored the last eight points after the Rams, the sixth-place team in the Mountain West Conference during the regular season, went on a 14-7 run to cut the lead to 59-57 on Brian Greene's 16-footer with 2:59 to play.
"It's not the Duke team that we wanted to show tonight," Williams said. "We've still got some things to work on."
The 14th-seeded Rams (19-14), upset winners of their conference tournament, had a chance to tie it but freshman Shelton Johnson, a 52 percent free-throw shooter, missed two from the line with 1:54 remaining.
After Williams' four big points, J.J Reddick, who scored 16, made four consecutive free throws in the final 26 seconds to send Duke (25-6) into a second-round matchup Saturday against 11th-seeded Central Michigan, an upset winner over Creighton.
Matt Nelson, Colorado State's 7-foot sophomore center, scored 21 points on 8-for-18 shooting. Greene was the only other Ram in double figures with 14 points, but he shot just 3-of-15 from the field.
Jones scored 23 points for Duke, three shy of his career high, but fouled out with 5:51 to play.
His fifth foul came on Matt Williams' three-point play that capped an 8-2 Rams run and cut Duke's lead to 54-51.
"It's a terrible feeling," Jones said of that final foul, "but you've got to trust your teammates."
Daniel Ewing came off the bench to sink a 3-pointer and a driving layup to put the Blue Devils up 59-51 with 4:52 to play, but Colorado State had one more challenge left.
Ewing had a novel take on his team's struggles.
"I think it was a good game for us to play close," he said. "If we had blown a team out, we might have come out lackadaisical on Saturday."
The Blue Devils nearly didn't get to play Saturday at all.
"Everybody saw Duke vs. Colorado State. Nobody thought we could do it," Greene said. "Having a chance to win it with 21/2 minutes left was just unbelievable."
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski called it "an incredibly tough defensive game" and would not fault his team's effort.
"If we weren't ready to play and hadn't played hard, we would have gotten our [tails] kicked," he said.
Neither team shot well -- Duke 35 percent and Colorado State 33 percent. But the Blue Devils were 25-for-31 at the foul line, compared to 18-for-22 for the Rams.
"I thought our defensive effort was terrific, and I thought their defensive effort was the best we've ever seen," Rams coach Dale Layer said. "It was hard to score all night."
Duke has lost just one opening-round NCAA tournament game since 1984. That was seven years ago against Eastern Michigan.
This one nearly ended the same way in front of a capacity crowd that enthusiastically backed the Rams at the University of Utah's Jon Huntsman Center.
"It was a tough environment," Jones said. "It was like a home game for them."
Jones scored the first 11 Duke points in the first half, and the first five in the second. Leading 36-30 at the break, Duke scored the first six points of the second half to go up 42-30 when Williams made one of two free throws.
Colorado State went 7:16 without a field goal in the first half and still trailed only 17-14 after Nelson ended the drought with an inside basket with 9:48 to play.
The Rams caught the Blue Devils at 20-20 with 7:19 to play in the half on a 6-0 spurt, the last four on free throws by Greene.
Duke regained control with an 11-2 run and led the rest of the
way, but usually not by much.