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NCAA Tournament Recap (Duke-Michigan St)

Posted: Sun March 28, 1999 at 12:39 a.m EST


ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) -- For all the missed shots by Trajan Langdon, ill-advised fouls by Elton Brand, fundamental lapses on the defensive end and missed free throws in the final five minutes, the bottom line is Duke still advanced to the NCAA Tournament title game.

Playing one of their worst games of the season, the Blue Devils overcame themselves as much as a tough Michigan State squad to record a 68-62 victory in the second national semifinal at Tropicana Field.

"Michigan State is the number two team in the country, they are not a bump in the road," insisted Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, who moved into second place on the all-time NCAA Tournament wins list with 48, ahead of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. "For us to win a game like that, we are ultimately proud. The type of game and the team we played, this was as fulfilling a win as we've had all season."

Langdon was 3-of-9 from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range. Brand, who picked up his fourth foul with 10:12 to play, still finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Blue Devils (37-1), who will play Connecticut in the title game Monday night.

William Avery added 14 points, while Chris Carrawell added 11 of his 13 in the second half as Duke advanced to its fifth NCAA Tournament championship game this decade. The Blue Devils, who ran their school-record winning streak to 32 games, are the last team to repeat as NCAA Tournament champions, winning in 1991 and 1992.

The Blue Devils beared no resemblance to the team which rolled through the East Region of the NCAA Tournament, winning those four games by an average of 30 points. Aside from the opening seven-plus minutes of the game, when it seized a 17-8 lead, Duke showed few flashes of the team which recorded 33 of its 36 wins by double-digit margins.

The Blue Devils clearly were outplayed for stretches of the second half as Michigan State (33-5) battled within three points with 8:33 left and was still within four with just over seven minutes to go. Duke made just 14-of-27 free throws, including 7-of-16 in the final 5:09.

Brand, who posted his impressive double-double in just 29 minutes, committed three unnecessary fouls in the second half. Despite the stints on the bench, Brand was 7-of-10 from the field.

"We had to grind this out, it was a very satisfying win," said Brand. "I was confident in my moves and guys were hitting me, they found me in position to score."

In fact, the game had many similarities of the first contest between the two teams, a 73-67 Duke victory in the Great Eight Classic on December 2. The Blue Devils raced to a 9-2 lead and were ahead 17-8 with 12:52 to play before Michigan State settled down. In the first game, the Spartans trailed 13-0 and 21-4 before recovering to pull within three points with just over six minutes left.

Morris Peterson scored 15 points off the bench and Mateen Cleaves added 12 and 10 assists for Michigan State, which was in the Final Four for the first time since 1979. The Spartans, who had a school-record 22-game winning streak snapped, did not have an answer inside for Brand, who bullied Andre Hutson and Antonio Smith on the offensive end.

"It was real difficult," said Smith about containing Brand. "If he gets it low, he'll score. We had to adjust. Once we had him one way, other players would hit shots and that made us second-guess (whether to double-team Brand)."

Electing to contest the 3-point shooting of Langdon and Avery and not double-team Brand, Michigan State was trounced inside in the first half. Brand scored six points in the first 2:07, scoring easily three times in a 9-2 burst to start the game.

A 3-pointer by Cleaves drew Michigan State within 9-8, but the Blue Devils reeled off eight straight points to make it 17-8 on a dunk by Nate James with 12:51 left. The Spartans regrouped to close within 22-16 on a fast-break dunk by Hutson, but Duke freshman Corey Maggette had a follow shot and a thunderous dunk in transition off a lead pass by Langdon that made it 26-16 with 7:16 left.

Michigan State was lucky to be down only 32-20 at halftime since it did not score the final 5:12 of the half. But the Blue Devils also struggled down the stretch, netting just two baskets. Brand had eight points and 13 rebounds in the first 20 minutes as Duke built a 28-14 edge on the boards and held the Spartans to 29 percent (9-of-31) shooting.

The Blue Devils took their largest lead of the game at 36-22 on a dunk by Avery with 18:14 to play before Michigan State responded. An 8-0 run, capped by a dunk from Smith, made it 36-30 less than two minutes later. A five-footer by Thomas Kelley pulled the Spartans within 43-39, but Brand had a three-point play to rebuild Duke's lead to seven.

interior, going to the basket more and grabbing offensive rebounds. It was 50-42 when Brand picked up his fourth foul, running over Cleaves -- who also had three fouls -- while he tried to head a 3-on-1 fast break.

The Spartans immediately went to Hutson inside, where he converted. Carrawell made a free throw, but Peterson had the follow shot of a missed free throw by Charlie Bell, who then made two to bring Michigan State within 51-48 at the 8:33 mark.

But Langdon stutter-stepped to get free for a huge 3-pointer on the left wing to make it 54-48. He and Maggette missed front end of 1-and-1s, and a lay-in by Peterson pulled Michigan State within 54-50 at the 7:09 mark. Avery, though, drilled a huge 3-pointer over Cleaves 19 seconds later.

"We cut it to three, and their All-Americans stepped up," said Izzo. "Trajan Langdon hit a 3-pointer, that was a critical, critical shot. Then Avery hits a three. That's why they're the team."

"You get so close, you see it," said Cleaves about the rally. "We couldn't get over the hump. We were one or two plays from pulling the upset. Those were big shots Langdon and Avery hit. Two of their best players hit shots. We were one play away from making a run and they hit shots. It shows how good they are."

After a travel by Cleaves, Avery sliced into the lane for a layup to make it 59-50 with 6:14 left. Hutson had a basket for the Spartans, and Krzyzewski called a 20-second timeout with 4:44 to play to get Brand back into the game. On the following possession, Brand backed in for a 10-footer, but Carrawell came on the weakside to put the follow shot in, restoring the nine-point lead with 4:23 remaining.

"With Elton out of the game, we knew we had to step up, especially on the boards," said Krzyzewski. "That's the thing we were conscious of. Avery hit a big 3-pointer. C-Well (Carrawell) drove the lane and Maggette gave us big minutes."

Michigan State came no closer than the final margin.

Duke shot 45 percent (25-of-56) and held a 44-40 rebounding advantage. Carrawell hit 6-of-12 from the line, while Maggette added nine points off the bench. The Blue Devils had only seven assists on their 25 baskets but did net 17 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds.

The Spartans shot 37 percent (26-of-70) and attempted only 11 free throws, sinking six. Smith had a team-high 10 rebounds as Michigan State scored 22 second-chance points on 18 offensive rebounds. Cleaves and Peterson shot a combined 11-of-33 from the field, with Cleaves going 2-of-9 from 3-point range.

"I've been taking those shots all year and I'll continue to take them," said Cleaves. "When I missed those shots, people ask me if I'm forcing them, when I make them, people ask me what it's like to be a hero. That's what I'll do and I'll take those shots every time."

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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