Monday, March 22, 1999


Duke shows how to beat matchup zone

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This was not supposed to be a new experience for Trajan Langdon. He signed with Duke after a career as Alaska's leading (and only) prep basketball legend, so this was supposed to be habit. Join the Blue Devils, see the Final Four.

        Perhaps he could see the Final Four from where he stood one year earlier, with Duke 17 points ahead of Kentucky and less than 10 minutes to play in their South Region final, but he didn't get there. That lead was blown, UK became national champs and Duke became one of those teams “on a mission” this year, only one with the talent to do something about it.

        Such as this:

        Duke 85, Temple 64.

        The top-ranked Blue Devils (36-1) Sunday won their 31st consecutive game in the East Region final. They are headed to the first Final Four of Langdon's five years at Duke, which included a year spent as a redshirt because of a knee injury. He led the way with 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

        “I think it makes us even more happy because people expected us to do this,” Langdon said. “We expected it, too, and to be able to follow through on that is a great feeling.”

        Duke wrecked Temple's matchup zone from a variety of angles, with center Elton Brand scoring 21 points and forward Chris Carrawell producing 12 and seven assists. The Devils became only the third team in 197 games dating to 1993 to score 85 or more points against the Owls.

        “We beat an outstanding basketball team. They are big, they don't rattle and they play every possession,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “With having one day of preparation, I'm proud of the way we played against their zone.”

        There was no question which team was doing the pushing and which was being pushed as the Owls bullied their way to a 9-5 lead.

        “Out of this bracket, I thought we were the only team that could beat Duke,” Temple coach John Chaney said. “I think we played well defensively. If we shot the ball a little better, we may have looked a little better, but the outcome would have been the same.”

        With the score 9-7, Langdon ran the baseline and picked up a screen near the right corner. Temple's Lamont Barnes didn't get through the pick quickly enough and Langdon had the instant he needed to fire.

        “He was not screened off that much,” Chaney said. “We had practiced very hard at trying to get them to understand that Langdon only needed to look through a hole in a needle to see the basket. We tried to express that, how important it was to get out and make him put the ball on the floor. He's as good a shooter as I've seen in the game of basketball.”

        That three-pointer ignited the Duke offense and was part of a personal 11-2 run for Langdon that required only 90 seconds. The Blue Devils jumped from four points down to 11 ahead in just eight possessions.

        “Penetration just broke their defense down,” said Carrawell. “I knew it was going to be a game where I could attack. It was all fundamentals; I used ball fakes, used my pivot foot. Usu ally, I'm a street player.”

        The Blue Devils shot .696 from the field in the first half, missing only seven shots. There thus were few opportunities for offensive rebounds, and they managed only one. It was kind of a big one.

        With the final seconds of the first half lapsing, William Avery tried a jumper from the left wing that caught the rim and bounced skyward. There, the ball encountered freshman forward Corey Magette.

        He dunked the ball and did a pull-up on the rim, ostensibly to avoid landing on the many players left below on the ground.

        “His dunk at the end of the half ... kind of ... was amazing,” said Krzyzewski, nearly speechless. “It was pretty good. He went up pretty high.”

        The confidence the Devils gained from Magette's magic propelled them toward 18 points in the first 5:24 of the second half, stretching their lead to 61-41.

        Instead of surrender, Temple conjured an extended trapping defense that forced four turnovers and limited Duke to just one basket and three free throws — one on a technical foul against Chaney — in the next four minutes. The Owls rallied to a 10-point deficit with a 13-3 run, but Duke didn't even have to be quite itself to build its advantage to 17 points.

        “You don't get a chance to start talking about a national championship until you get to the Final Four,” said Krzyzewski. He reached the Final Four seven times starting in 1986, but hasn't been back since Grant Hill led the way in 1994.

        “Now, we can start talking about that.”