Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Blue Devils stunned


Avery: 'I was just amazingly sad'

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — What else could there be but disbelief? Duke point guard William Avery was slumped over, unable to look up for a few moments.

        The game was over. Connecticut was the national champion.

        More to the point, Duke wasn't.

        The final Monday night: Huskies 77, Blue Devils 74.

        “I have to say I was in shock,” Avery would say later. “That was the last time this team was going to be on the same court together. I was just amazingly sad.”

        Said teammate Shane Battier: “I felt all the emotion had been drained out of me. I didn't really feel anything. I felt like I was walking in a twilight zone. Time stood still, and I just walked off the court.”

        The Blue Devils could not take the final step in their glorious season without stumbling.

        They finished 37-2 with the best winning percentage in school history and tied for most victories.

        But they have no NCAA title.

        Still, coach Mike Krzyzewski refused to sound down at the postgame press conference.

        “I'm really proud of my team,” he said. “I really love these guys.

        “I have a hard time being sad, I'm sorry. I don't coach for winning; I coach for relationships. I got the best.”

        The final two possessions, Duke went to its leader, Trajan Langdon.

        Coach K said he would have it no other way.

        With the Blue Devils trailing by one and less than 20 seconds left, Langdon tried to get free from UConn defensive whiz Ricky Moore. Langdon penetrated, he spun ... he traveled.

        “Moore was on me the whole game,” Langdon said. “I just wanted to make a move. I might have traveled, I might not have.

        “That's the call. But that's not the game. There's millions of plays in that game that determined the outcome, so I'm not going to hang my head on that play.”

        After Khalid El-Amin hit two free throws to make it 77-74 UConn with 5.2 seconds left, Duke inbounded to Langdon, who was trying to get upcourt against Rashamel Jones.

        Langdon got tripped up, tried to get off a shot, had the ball stripped.

        That was all folks.

        The final buzzer sounded. The Huskies celebration was under way.

        “It was clean,” Krzyzewski said. “Everything about that game was clean. They played good "D' on that last exchange.”

       



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