Duke Makes Deal With the Devil: Wins Title

The Duke Blue Devils won their third NCAA championship, defeating conference foe Maryland in the semifinals and a red hot Arizona squad in the title game.”Somehow, we were able to outlast them,” said Duke sophomore guard Mike Dunleavy, after the 82-72 win over the Wildcats.All of the preseason polls had Arizona, Duke, and Stanford ahead of the rest of field. Many analysts predictions were accurate, as Arizona knocked off one seed Stanford in the elite eight, and then routed Michigan St. to earn the right to play Duke in the finals. Arizona arguably has the best starting five in the country which propelled them to 11 straight victories before their hard-fought loss to the Blue Devils.Also living up to their billing, Duke played well all season led by explosive sophomore guard Jason Williams and National Player of the Year Shane Battier.Once the final four teams were remaining, it was anyone’s guess who would win, even leaving the bookies in Las Vegas wondering who to pick. The first contest was not really one, as Arizona anticipated the passing lanes of defending champion Michigan St. brilliantly, which led to steals, fast break buckets and a 20 point win. The second game was between Maryland and Duke, who were playing for the fourth time this season. Maryland had slaughtered Duke on senior day in Cameron Indoor, but was defeated by a small margin twice, including in the ACC tournament.Maryland came out pumped up and on fire after their huge upset over top-seeded Stanford, and were up by as many as 22 in the first half.Duke, like they usually do, made a run and cut the lead in half by intermission, thanks to good defensive plays by Shane Battier and one-sided officiating. There isn’t anything wrong with the referees making bad calls, but they have to be consistent, which was not the case. Duke played well, but much of their comeback and efficient play was because they were getting all the calls, as they won 85-74 to go to the finals against Arizona.”The time is now. We thought if we could get a defensive stop, we could crack the game open,” said Battier.’A defensive stop,’ please Shane. You’re a great player, but how much money did you slip the ref before the game? Maybe I’m colorblind, but I could have sworn the referees were wearing blue and white stripes that night.Wait a minute. Maybe I was going blind, because it seemed the championship game refs wore the blue and white as well. I was disgusted enough to see how much the telecasters and media sucked up to Battier and Duke, but the referees too? Come on. Battier was going over the back of Arizona all night long, as well as hacking them.It does seem like the offensive players get too much leniency these days, but Battier got away with armed robbery.Duke was leading 75-72, with 2:50 left in the game. Arizona went scoreless for the remainder of the contest falling 82-72. During this final stretch Williams, who had a sub-par game, definitely fouled out. Arizona point guard Jason Gardner was playing Gary Payton style defense, which was the major reason Williams was struggling all game. Williams pushed off with his forearm sending Gardner to the floor. It was a blatant foul which conveniently went unnoticed by the officials.Williams went on later to hit a three-pointer on a Battier screen that was the nail in the coffin.Despite the many missed calls, several Duke players showed up on Monday night without the officials help. Dunleavy, sophomore forward Carlos Boozer, and freshman guard Mike Duhon to name a few.Dunleavy was the main reason the Blue Devils won their second championship in Minneapolis. He drained three trifectas in a span of 46 seconds early in the second half, giving Duke its first double digit lead of the contest. “Our will and heart came out on top. I was hot and they got the ball to me in the second half,” said Dunleavy, who finished with a career high five threes.Dunleavy’s 18 second half points was not the only bright spot for Duke. Boozer finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, despite getting abused at times by Arizona center Loren Woods.Duhon played with confidence unlike most freshman, which can be attributed to Duke’s 39 game season. He came up with a critical old-fashioned three-point play after a 6-0 Wildcat run narrowed the lead to 68-65 with 5:28 to play. Duhon also had key passes setting up Dunleavy for threes, while running the offense when Williams was on the bench because of foul trouble.Even more impressive was the fact that Duhon was able to play after he collided with Maryland’s Steve Blake and landed on his head two days earlier. Duhon appeared to be unconscious, yet returned later that game and played with no apparent sign of a concussion.Also demonstrating tremedous willpower after a pinched nerve in his neck injury against Michigan St., was Arizona guard Gilbert Arenas. He was noticeably hurt, yet had the courage and heart to play well with the animosity surrounding his team.Arizona struggled earlier in the season. When things were bad they got worse, as head coach Lute Olson’s wife (Bobbie Olson) died, yet they somehow continued to play as a powerful unit.”It’s always tough to lose. We wanted this so much for our coach and Bobbie,” said Arizona sophomore forward Richard Jefferson who finished with 19 points.The balls, like the calls, bounced Duke’s way down the stretch, helping them to victory. Hey, they don’t call them the Blue Devils for nothing.