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Updated: Friday, February 27, 2004 12:43 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(4) Duke 97, Valparaiso 63

DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- If this was preparation for the NCAA Tournament, Duke might cruise to the Final Four.

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils enjoyed a laugher in their break from Atlantic Coast Conference play, getting 20 points from Daniel Ewing en route to a 97-63 victory over Valparaiso.

Freshman Luol Deng added 18 points for Duke (23-3), which extended the longest home winning streak in the nation to 41 games, one more than Pittsburgh's 40-game run.

Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski told his players the game would be like the NCAA Tournament, considering Valparaiso's reputation as a Cinderella team during "March Madness." The team listened.

"Those are the type of teams that we could face in the first couple of rounds of the tournament," said Shavlik Randolph, who had 16 points, five rebounds and four blocks. "It's just preparation."

The Blue Devils used a scorching shooting touch and smothering defense to blow away Valparaiso (13-12) in the first meeting between the schools. They went 15-of-26 from 3-point range and held the Crusaders to 31 percent shooting overall (23-of-74).

"I think you have to compliment Duke on two things," Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. "One is that they just shot the ball extremely well. Second thing is their defense."

Duke made nine of its first 12 attempts from 3-point range, building a 39-13 cushion on one from Ewing 9:15 before halftime. Ewing and J.J Redick had three 3-pointers apiece and Deng and Randolph both had two.

"It was lights out," Drew said.

Joaquim Gomes scored 18 points for the Crusaders, who had no answer for Duke's defense, especially early.

"I think we were as cold as that snow outside in the first 10 minutes and I thought Duke was extremely hot," he said. "I think the difference in the game happened too early on us."

The Blue Devils were coming off Sunday's 86-63 rout of ACC foe Maryland, but had dropped their previous two league games, losing its grasp on the nation's No. 1 ranking.

Duke wanted to duplicate its defensive effort against the Terrapins.

"That's something that we said before the Maryland game that we kind of forgot about a little bit," Deng said. "We just wanted to focus on tonight's game like it was a tournament game. We really focused a lot on defense."


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