Saturday, March 27, 1999


Duke in final: First women, next the men?

The Associated Press

        SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nicole Erickson had 22 points and Michele VanGorp had 20 and the women Blue Devils held Georgia's Miller twins to 31 combined points to reach the national title game with a 81-69 victory over the Lady Bulldogs on Friday night.

        Duke's men will try to match the success of their female counterparts today when they face Michigan State in the national semifinals at St. Petersburg, Fla.

        The female Blue Devils, making their first trip to the Final Four, will face Purdue, a 77-63 winner over Louisiana Tech, in the championship game Sunday night.

        “They beat us the way they beat most teams, and that's by spreading us out and hitting the threes, or throwing it in to VanGorp,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “We didn't have a clue offensively throughout this game. We didn't give up, we hung in there, but they just shot the ball too well.”

        Following up on its shocking defeat of three-time defending champion Tennessee in the East Regional final, Duke built a 15-point lead early in the second half and used a late 16-3 run to rebuild its advantage after Georgia pulled within six.

        “I thought we played with tremendous poise,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. “We played with confidence and I also thought we were relaxed. We had a championship mentality, which we showed all year long.”

        Georgia Schweitzer added 13 points for Duke (29-6), which was 9-of-16 on three-pointers. The nine threes were a record for the national semifinals.

        Coco Miller scored 18 points and identical twin Kelly Miller added 13 for Georgia (27-7). The Millers averaged a combined 37 points per game this season. Freshman center Tawana McDonald had 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs.

        The Blue Devils undermined Georgia's transition game by shooting 51 percent and committing only 11 turnovers, and focused on slowing the Miller sisters.

        “We know they like to go left and shoot a little jumper. We wanted to try to force them to go right, deny them the ball and bump them around a little bit,” Erickson said.

        The Blue Devils' defeat of Tennessee on Monday made Duke the second school to send its men's and women's teams to the NCAA tournament Final Four in the same season. Georgia was the other, in 1983.

        The absence of Tennessee and star Chamique Holdsclaw, the two-time national player of the year, took some of the luster off the women's Final Four. There were large patches of empty seats in the 17,709-capacity San Jose Arena.

        Leading by six points at halftime, the Blue Devils — who are 22-0 this season when leading at halftime — opened the second half with a 14-5 run.

        GEORGIA (27-7) — Irwin 0-6 0-0 0, Ball 2-5 0-0 4, McDonald 6-11 2-4 14, K.Miller 5-13 2-3 13, C.Miller 8-14 0-1 18, Vishniakova 2-5 0-0 4, Nolan 6-11 0-0 12, Willis 0-0 0-0 0, K.Brown 0-2 1-2 1, Murphy 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 30-68 5-10 69.

        DUKE (29-6) — Browne 4-6 2-2 10, Schweitzer 5-10 1-1 13, VanGorp 7-11 5-7 20, Howard 2-6 3-4 8, Erikson 7-15 4-4 22, Black 1-1 0-0 2, Parent 1-2 0-1 2, Rice 1-4 1-2 4. Totals 28-55 16-21 81.

        Halftime score—Duke 40, Georgia 34. 3-Point Goals—Georgia 4-11 (C.Miller 2-3, Murphy 1-1, K.Miller 1-3, Nolan 0-1, Irwin 0-3), Duke 9-16 (Erikson 4-7, Schweitzer 2-4, VanGorp 1-1, Rice 1-1, Howard 1-3). Fouled out—Vishniakova. Rebounds—Georgia 35 (McDonald 9), Duke 33 (VanGorp 9). Assists—Georgia 13 (K.Miller 5), Duke 20 (Howard, Erikson 5). Total fouls—Georgia 19, Duke 13. A—NA.