Sunday, March 28, 1999

DUKE 68, MICHIGAN STATE 62


Blue Devils ride Brandwagon

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — He claims this was not his penultimate college basketball game, that there still is more about the sport that two years at Duke has not taught him. Do not hazard a guess as to what that might be. Elton Brand is keeping it his secret.

        Brand, at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, did everything a large basketball player can do but stick around as long as Duke might have wanted, but he filled an abbreviated performance with all the points, rebounds and intimidation coach Mike Krzyzewski could ask in the Blue Devils' 68-62 victory over Michigan State in the NCAA tournament semifinals Saturday night.

        It was only Duke's fourth win by fewer than 10 points, two of which are against the Spartans (33-5).

        Duke (37-1) is back in the title game for the first time since 1994 and can claim its third title of the '90s against Connecticut on Monday. This was largely because the Spartans had no answer for Brand's astonishing combination of might, grace and skill.

        He scored 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and missed just three shots, which covered for teammate Trajan Langdon's most difficult night of the season. The Devils also got 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting from guard William Avery, who outdueled All-American Mateen Cleaves and his 12-point, 10-assist and 5-of-16 effort.

        If it once seemed to be an advantage for Michigan State to have played the Blue Devils — and played competitively — in December at the Great Eight in Chicago, that notion was dismissed by all Brand accomplished.

        In the earlier game, the Spartans slapped a 41-25 rebound beating on the Devils, and Krzyzewski used this as a point of emphasis in preparation for the rematch. Not that Brand needed to be reminded he'd grabbed a mere three rebounds.

        “The last game really embarrassed him,” Duke forward Shane Battier said. “He was outplayed. He looked really poor. He really recommitted himself to be the best player he could be.

        “When we see Elton get that face — I really can't describe it — he gets that look of confidence, and it picked up the whole team.”

        The Spartans shut out Langdon in the first 20 minutes and still were dropped into a 32-20 deficit. The Devils scored 13 points on stick-backs and outrebounded MSU by 14.

        Duke built toward its largest lead in a more traditional fashion, with Avery dashing through the defense for a quick basket, then stealing the ball from Cleaves and dunking to make it 36-22.

        A funny thing happened as that ball landed.

        Michigan State hit bottom.

        From there, there was only one direction. The Spartans scored on their next seven trips, with Cleaves scoring five including a three-pointer.

        When guard Thomas Kelley followed his own miss, it was a four-point game with more than 12 minutes to play.

        Brand stopped that rally with a three-point play and a hanging jumper in the lane, but less than three minutes later got too rambunctious and chose to dribble into a fast break. Cleaves stepped in front of Brand and his rolling 260 pounds just as he delivered the ball, and the charging call was Brand's fourth personal with 10:12 left.

        Duke was in front by eight when Brand left, and Michigan State took advantage to score all but one of the next seven points and cut that lead to 51-48.

        The Spartans never had a chance to enjoy that lead.

        Langdon created a three-pointer with a dribble move on the left wing to double the lead, and Krzyzewski called that the biggest shot of the game. Avery followed with another three, and the lead was back to nine.

        “He's a great player, and great players step up at winning time,” said MSU sophomore guard Charlie Bell, who held Langdon to 3-of-9 shooting and that one three-pointer. “I did a good job on him all night, but he hit the shot when it counted.”

        The Devils actually extended their lead by a point with Brand gone. He returned with 4:44 to play, and immediately commanded defensive attention that led to a Chris Carrawell put-back and then his free throw. The lead returned to double digits.

        “When he sat down — he was killing us for a while — I thought we had a chance,” MSU forward Jason Klein said. “But they're not one man.”

        The Spartans missed five of their first six shots this time and fell into a 9-2 deficit, a handicap they would carry through the game.

        “Michigan State was the No.2 team in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “They are not a bump in the road ... We beat a great basketball team today in a great basketball game.”

MARCH MADNESS PAGE


DUKE (68)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Carrawell       30   3-8  6-12   1-4  1  0   13
Battier         33   2-5   1-2   4-6  1  3    5
Brand           29  7-10   4-5  4-15  1  4   18
Avery           35  6-14   0-1   1-5  0  0   14
Langdon         37   3-9   0-1   2-6  3  2    7
Maggette        17   3-7   3-6   2-4  0  0    9
Burgess         12   0-1   0-0   2-4  1  2    0
James            7   1-2   0-0   0-0  0  0    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 25-56 14-27 16-44  7 11   68
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.446, FT-.519. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Carrawell 1-1, Battier 0-3, Avery 2-4, Langdon 1-4, Maggette 0-1). Team rebounds: None. Blocked shots: 5 (Battier 2, Burgess 2, Brand). Turnovers: 12 (Avery 4, Brand 3, Carrawell 3, Battier, Langdon). Steals: 3 (Avery, Battier, James).

MICHIGAN ST (62) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp A Smith 34 3-7 0-0 5-10 0 5 6 Klein 14 2-6 0-0 1-2 0 2 5 Hutson 24 6-8 1-1 1-5 1 2 13 Cleaves 36 5-16 0-2 2-3 10 3 12 Bell 23 0-2 2-4 2-3 1 3 2 Peterson 30 6-17 3-4 4-8 1 5 15 Kelley 14 2-8 0-0 1-4 0 2 4 Granger 20 2-6 0-0 1-4 0 2 5 Davis 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 26-70 6-11 17-39 13 24 62 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.371, FT-.545. 3-Point Goals: 4-18, .222 (Klein 1-3, Cleaves 2-9, Peterson 0-2, Kelley 0-1, Granger 1-3). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 9 (Cleaves 5, Bell, Davis, Granger, Hutson). Steals: 5 (Peterson 2, Cleaves, Kelley, Klein). __________________________________ Duke 32 36 - 68 Michigan St 20 42 - 62 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 41,340. Officials: Libbey, Curtis Shaw, John Cahill.