Duke rallies to win fifth straight ACC tournamentPosted: Sunday March 16, 2003 3:52 PM
Updated: Sunday March 16, 2003 4:52 PM
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Duke just keeps producing Atlantic Coast Conference championships and future stars.
The 12th-ranked Blue Devils added a fantastic comeback to their record-setting run in the ACC tournament, getting 30 points from freshman J.J. Redick to beat North Carolina State 84-77 on Sunday.
Duke appeared down and out midway through the second half, but rallied from a 15-point deficit as Redick had 23 points over the final 10:05, giving the Blue Devils their fifth straight ACC title in stunning fashion.
"I watched the last four years on TV and I didn't get to experience it in person, but it's a huge honor to carry on the tradition of guys like Elton Brand and Shane Battier and Jason Williams," Redick said. "That's the reason I came to Duke, to continue the tradition of being one of the top programs in the country."
Fellow guard Daniel Ewing, who was held to 11 points Sunday, was the tournament MVP, scoring 62 points over the three games. The sophomore's outside touch in Duke's first two tourney wins helped free up Redick for his offensive outburst against the Wolfpack.
"Daniel put us on his back Friday night and a few of the kids then responded well," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We wouldn't be a champion without him. I just hope he realizes what an amazing accomplishment he just had."
The victory was Duke's 15th straight in the ACC postseason and gave Krzyzewski his eighth title in 12 tries as his club improved to 24-6 heading into the NCAA tournament.
Krzyzewski called this win the most special of the last five ACC titles.
"Other years we've had more veteran players, and a couple of times I think we had the most talent," he said. "But this year, it's pretty wide open, so for these kids to play three really good games like this I'm so proud and happy for them. I was kind of celebrating with five seconds to go because I felt so good for them."
Redick's closing surge included four key 3-pointers. The ACC's top free throw shooter also made two from the line with 12 seconds left and his team clinging to a three-point lead.
With 5.1 seconds left, Duke captain Chris Duhon walked to midcourt and held up five fingers to signal Duke's consecutive titles -- and the bench soon joined in. After making two more free throws, Redick left and got a big bear hug from Krzyzewski.
"I've seen Jason [Williams] do it, but to see it at such an early age -- period -- I have never seen a better shooter at his age," senior Casey Sanders said. "I knew he was on fire when he hit the second 3. Once I saw him start jumping around, everyone knew. I've seen him go stretches in practice 20 minutes without a miss. A freshman didn't play a freshman game today."
The fourth-seeded Wolfpack (18-12) were hurt by foul trouble to center Josh Powell and star Julius Hodge. They picked up their fourth fouls within a minute of each other as N.C. State built a 55-40 lead with 11:44 left.
It was mostly downhill from there for the Wolfpack, who were trying to win their first ACC crown since 1987 and avenge a 91-61 loss to the Blue Devils in last year's championship game.
"When you lose by 30 points it's hands down they're better than you," Hodge said. "In this game, we were up 12, 10, 15 points and then they came back and won. That really takes a lot out of you."
Powell led the Wolfpack with 26 points, while Hodge added 17 and 12 rebounds.
N.C. State got its working margin early in the second half with a 15-2 run that was fueled by the inside play of Powell, who scored the first eight points of the spurt.
After a fastbreak basket by Clifford Crawford gave the Wolfpack a double-digit lead, N.C. State's players gathered on the court in a huddle as Krzyzewski signaled for a timeout.
But the four-time defending champions gathered themselves for the stretch run, slowly chipping away at N.C. State's margin.
Duke took the lead for good on two free throws by Redick with 2:51 left as the Wolfpack managed just two baskets over the final 4:13.
"They had guys in foul trouble too, so that can never be an excuse," Hodge said.
"There are always things you can chance in a loss like this," he added. "We knew we were in the game and we had control and we let it slip away. It's not about going down swinging, it's about winning. This was the championship game and we let an opportunity slip away."
Duke shot 50 percent or better in tourney wins over Virginia and North Carolina, but missed 13 of its first 20 shots and couldn't crack's N.C. State's tough man-to-man defense early, falling behind by seven.
Duhon, Dahntay Jones and Redick then sank consecutive 3-pointers in a two-minute span to pull the Blue Devils within two. But Scooter Sherrill capped off his 11-point half with a 3-pointer and shot in the lane over the final 4:42 as the Wolfpack went up 36-31 at the break and appeared in control midway through the second before Duke's incredible finish.
N.C. State trailed by 14 at halftime last season in the embarrassing title-game loss to Duke, which had won its last four ACC title games by 30, 26, 13 and 23.
"So who said this doesn't mean anything anymore?" Krzyzewski said. "This was as intense as in 1986 when we won it the first time. State was classy and so hard-working. It was just a great basketball game and our kids showed amazing heart to hang in."