Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Hamilton gets what he came back for

Rip delivers championship to UConn

The Associated Press

        ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Last spring, Richard Hamilton thought seriously about leaving Connecticut for the NBA.

        He had all the credentials including a couple of Big East championships and the conference's Player of the Year award. So he talked it over with coach Jim Calhoun and together they decided there was one more piece of business for him to complete.

        “We won the Big East but never the national championship,” he said. “I thought about that. I didn't want to end my season on a loss. The only thing I could do about it was come back and play.”

        On Monday night, he made sure to finish with a win, scoring 27 points as the Huskies beat Duke 77-74 for the national championship he wanted so much.

        Hamilton was heroic in the victory. Every time UConn needed a basket, he seemed there for it. He slashed to the basket, he made shots from outside and he took the game over in the second half.

        There was one sequence near the end that showed just how much he means to Calhoun's program.

        With the score tied at 68 and 3:50 left to play, he took a shot to the midsection from Duke's Chris Carrawell. Hamilton was doubled over for a moment, trying to catch his breath. Finally, he stepped to the foul line and made the free throws for a lead the Huskies would never again surrender.

        Then, just for emphasis, the next time down the floor, he made a three-pointer, extending UConn's lead to five points.

        For the game, he finished with 10-of-22 from the floor seven rebounds and three assists.

Champion stop
        Ricky Moore started with an unusual jolt of offense, then finished off Duke with the defensive stop of a lifetime.

        Moore, the most famous defensive specialist in America, forced Duke's Trajan Langdon to travel with seconds ticking down. Langdon lost the ball again, and Connecticut celebrated its first national title.

        When it was over, Moore raised his arms to the crowd and walked off the court, a rare player who lifted his team to championship heights just because he could guard anybody.

        Moore sent Duke reeling for the first time in the Blue Devils' dominant season with seven points during a 15-4 run in the first half. But his biggest play, one that kids in his native Augusta, Ga., will be talking about on the playgrounds for years, came as Langdon was poised to shoot down UConn's quest for an upset.

        After UConn point guard Khalid El-Amin lofted an airball on a tough running jumper, Langdon got the ball and Duke didn't call a timeout. Dribbling between his legs before spinning and driving on Moore, Langdon got his feet tangled and traveled with 5.4 seconds left.

        El-Amin hit two free throws, and UConn did what few thought was possible.

        Everyone underestimated Moore's impact.


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- Hamilton gets what he came back for