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Family ties. Duke coach K (for Mike Krzyzewski) explains the game to the assembled media, with daughter D (for Debbie) on one side and wife M (for Mickie) fondling his arm on the other. A freshman reserve Q (Quin Snyder) runs around the locker room snapping pictures of his older, more illustrious teammates. And when the SA (Student Animals) are finished haranguing the silver-haired enemy coach as well as his woebegone defeated troops by chanting "Grecian Formula" and by waving the ever-popular DIE POND SCUM signs, they sit obediently on the court, picnic-round-the-campfire style, as the student athletes receive the spoils of victory.
Tommy Amaker to Johnny Dawkins at the free-throw line a few minutes earlier: "Ice water, man."
No, this isn't another cloying TV sitcom, but merely the most recent in a season-long succession of victories that the senior-laden Duke Blue Devils have achieved with a marvelous blend of grace, humor and requisite camaraderie that would be perfectly revolting if it wasn't so sincere, not to mention indispensable, to the groundwork of gaining and remaining No. 1.
The Dookies are college basketball's answer to the Osmonds, and on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. they needed every bit of that experience, love and brotherhood once again to squeak by Georgia Tech 68-67 for their 32nd victory and the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Dawkins actually announced, "Together we stand, divided we fall," without wincing, which may have taken more guts than grabbing the saving rebound and hitting the clinching foul shots, both of which the 6'2" whippet guard also accomplished.
Team chemistry? Parts amounting to greater than the whole? The day before, Duke had survived Virginia in the semifinals only after burly center Jay Bilas—"our offensive lineman," Krzyzewski calls him—stole a pass in the open court for a dunk, and after David Henderson scored eight points in the final 3:32. Then on Sunday, freshman Danny Ferry came off the bench to contribute six points and eight rebounds. Mark Alarie stuck his movie-star face and his pet baseline jumper high above three Tech defenders and finally put Duke ahead to stay 66-65 with 44 seconds left. And then Amaker helped Dawkins double-team the Yellow Jackets' dangerous Mark Price so that Price had to give up the ball to the .429-shooting Craig Neal.
At the 10-second mark, Neal's 18-footer from the corner was short off the rim. The ball caromed directly to Dawkins, and after Price fouled him, Johnny D ended a raging jewel of a contest with two sweet free throws.
"I don't know if we're the best team, but we play together the best," said Krzyzewski, echoing that party line again. Well, at least one point better together than Georgia Tech.
Surely, however, Dawkins is first among the equals. In 1983, Price beat him out as the ACC's top freshman. But Dawkins has gone on to be the most productive offensive player in league history—the only one to amass more than 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. He outscored (20-16) as well as out-shot (7 of 14 vs. 6 of 18) Price in their final ACC showdown, and now he has capped his final ACC season with a famous defensive play: a grab-the-rebound-and-bolt-the-door twin killing of his bitter Tech rival.
Curiously, Duke's barbed-wire help-out man-to-man defense seems to have gone unnoticed over this scintillating season. But Blue Devil opponents have "been coerced into making 19.4 turnovers per game (better by two than the vaunted Georgetown pressure forced last season), and, in a split of their regular-season games, Georgia Tech contributed mightily to that number with 39.
In the ACC final, however, the more careful Jackets raised the level of the contest. They came from nine points down in the second half and, with a 13-1 onslaught featuring several inside baskets by 7-foot John Salley, Tech took a 49-46 lead with 11:08 left in the game.