Saturday, March 20, 1999


Blue Devils play hard enough

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The walk-ons finished off this game for Duke, as usual, but there wasn't as much of Justin Caldbeck and J.D. Simpson as you might have expected from a matchup with Southwest Missouri State.

        Those two didn't get in the game until a minute remained, because the Bears did not relent until the latter stages of the second half. “We knew if we came out and played hard, anything can happen,” guard Kevin Ault said.

        What happened ultimately was a 78-61 Duke victory in Friday night's NCAA East Region semifinal at the Continental Airlines Arena. It was the sort of performance by the No.1 Blue Devils (35-1) that led to questions about whether they lacked the same intensity as in their first two NCAA Tournament victories.

        Instead, what truly was lacking was the opposition's fear. Coach Steve Alford recounted the David and Goliath story to his Bears (22-11) before the game, as well as showing them game tape and pointing out what he thought were the Blue Devils' weaknesses.

        “The coaching staff did a great job of breaking down film and showing Duke does have some faults,” guard William Fontleroy said. “They're not a perfect team.”

        However, the Blue Devils are as close as there is in this tournament and thus were able to build to a comfortable advantage on the strength of 24 points and a career-high eight rebounds by senior guard Trajan Langdon in addition to 14 points, five blocks and four steals by All-American center Elton Brand.

        Duke advanced to Sunday afternoon's regional finals against Temple and within one step of its eighth Final Four under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

        “I thought we played a little better in the second half, and they played better in the first half,” Krzyzewski said. “And we're better overall, so we're going to win that game.”

        The Blue Devils allowed Bears center Danny Moore 15 points, but he shot 5-of-15 to get there. Reserve Allen Phil lips led the Bears with 16 points, including 4-of-5 three-point shooting, but he airballed a 4-foot shot with the Bears down 10 early in the second half. Duke guard William Avery answered with a three-pointer that just about sealed the win — even with 16:47 still to play.

        “I just thought we played much better defensively in the second half,” Krzyzewski said. “I think it was obvious it was tough for them to get shots in the second half, and they didn't get any second shots.”

        The Bears' biggest problem at the start was offensive sloppiness and inefficiency. They missed seven of their first nine shots and turned it over three times.

        The Blue Devils grew their lead to 13-4 on a smooth baseline drive and slam by reserve forward Nate James, but the first several minutes of this game did not portend the sort of abject surrender Duke had accepted in the first two rounds and many of its late-season Atlantic Coast Conference games.

        “I do think we attacked them,” Alford said. “We did everything we wanted to do, but we couldn't make some shots early. If we could have been at 45, 46 percent in the first half, then it's a three- or four-point game. And then the pressure shifts. We wanted to make the game close enough late enough that maybe their inexperience could kick in.”

        When Moore battled inside for a short bank shot, the Bears began to play more assertively on offense. They got three-pointers from Phillips and Ault on their next two trips, and Moore executed a sweet baseline drive and reverse layup around the Devils' Chris Burgess. The lead was down to 17-14, and there even was an opportunity to tie the game that was misspent on a forced three by Ault.

        With 10 points by Langdon, including two three-pointers, the Blue Devils outscored the Bears by a 16-10 margin over the final 5:55 and carried a 39-30 lead into halftime.

        Once the Blue Devils broke the double-digit lead barrier on Brand's power hook with 18:24 left, they were pretty much there for good. They buried the Bears with three-pointers by Avery, Langdon and James in a 13-8 surge that made it a 15-point Duke lead.

        It never got to be more than 22 points, though, even with Avery good for another three and Brand and Shane Battier still bruising the Bears inside.

        “I think you've got to give credit to SMS,” Langdon said. “They came out and matched our intensity. But I don't think we came out ready to play like we have the whole year. We're going to have to come out and play better Sunday.”

        SW MISSOURI ST. (22-11) — Stringer 0-2 1-2 1, Bruton 0-3 0-0 0, Moore 5-15 5-6 15, Fontleroy 4-11 2-4 10, Ault 2-7 0-0 5, Murans 1-1 0-0 2, Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Bettenhausen 1-2 0-0 2, Brakebill 3-5 2-2 8, Judd 0-1 0-0 0, Tshomba 1-1 0-0 2, Phillips 6-12 0-0 16, Rueter 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 10-14 61.

        DUKE (35-1) — Carrawell 3-7 3-5 9, Battier 2-5 0-0 5, Brand 6-11 2-5 14, Avery 4-10 1-3 12, Langdon 9-14 2-2 24, Caldbeck 0-0 0-0 0, Simpson 0-0 0-0 0, James 2-4 2-2 7, Calbeck 0-0 0-0 0, Bryant 0-0 1-2 1, Burgess 0-0 0-0 0, Maggette 3-7 0-2 6. Totals 29-58 11-21 78.

        Halftime score—Duke 39, SW Missouri St. 30. Three-point goals—SW Missouri St. 5-14 (Phillips 4-5, Ault 1-5, Miller 0-1, Judd 0-1, Fontleroy 0-2), Duke 9-23 (Langdon 4-6, Avery 3-8, James 1-3, Battier 1-3, Carrawell 0-1, Maggette 0-2). Fouled out—None. Rebounds— SW Missouri St. 35 (Fontleroy 6), Duke 41 (Langdon, Brand 8). Assists—SW Missouri St. 11 (Ault 3), Duke 16 (Carrawell, James 4). Total fouls—SW Missouri St. 18, Duke 16.