Tuesday, March 30, 1999

MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP NOTEBOOK


An upset when team is 33-2?

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It wasn't so much that few believed Connecticut was a great basketball team. It won 33 of 35 games before arriving the NCAA Championship game. It won the Big East regular season and tournament.

        It's just that few believed UConn was the right team to beat Duke.

        The Tampa Tribune surveyed 45 writers covering the Final Four, and only eight predicted UConn would win. A lot of comments regarded the difficulty Huskies center Jake Voskuhl would have defending Duke All-American Elton Brand.

        Coach Jim Calhoun, though, who orchestrated the 77-74 upset, did not even list that as the first of his keys to victory:

        • Ball pressure that forced shooting guard Trajan Langdon to handle the ball. Avery scored only 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting.

        • Double-teaming away from forward Shane Battier with Kevin Freeman. Battier did not make UConn pay, shooting 2-of-7, with one miss an easy lay-in.

Pressure points
        Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he did not believe his team lost because of the pressure of playing in the championship game as such a heavy favorite.

        “I don't think our kids showed they were under pressure,” Krzyzewski said. “They were beating us, and we came back. I thought in the last eight minutes, we played our best basketball.

        “The pressure to try to guard Connecticut, that's a different type of pressure. I mean, they're really good. I think they kept constant game pressure on us. It's a different form of pressure. You know, you're a possession down and they come down and score, and now we have to score to keept it a one-possession game. You have to give them an immense amount of credit for making big plays.”

Drive by
        The two most amazing statistics from the game were UConn's 41-31 rebounding advantage and the .525 shooting the Huskies managed — most of their success coming on drives to the goal.

        Duke dares teams to either cut back-door or attempt to penetrate, but on this night learned that either the Huskies too quick or its defenders were too slow to react.

Re-Pete
        Both Duke and Connecticut figure to field strong teams next season, although how strong depends on whether Devils stars Elton Brand and William Avery and UConn stars Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin chose to enter the NBA Draft.

        If everything were in place for each team to make another title run, and if they were seeded so they could meet in the title game, and if each won the five games required — a lot of ifs — their championship rematch would be the first since 1960-61 and 1961-62, when Ohio State and Cincinnati played in consecutive seasons. UC won both.

        Just something to think about as the offseason begins.

One more year
        Connecticut junior Richard Hamilton was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four and was serenaded with chants of “One More Year” from the Huskie fans.

        Hamilton considered turning professional after last season. He came back.

        He led all scorers Monday night with 27 points and with Khalid El-Amin combined for 26 of UConn's 40 second-half points.

        The all-Final Four team: Hamilton, El-Amin, Ricky Moore (UConn), Elton Brand (Duke), Trajan Langdon (Duke).


       



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At end, UConn had Moore than Duke
Hamilton gets what he came back for
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