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Duke Captures Second Consecutive NCAA Title

By Steve Berkowitz
The Washington Post

MINNEAPOLIS

Say it again because Duke has done it again. The Blue Devils last night became the first team to repeat as national college basketball champions in 19 years by defeating Michigan, 71-51, in the NCAA tournament final at the Metrodome.

Duke put the game away with a 17-4 run that consumed eight of the last nine minutes. It began after Michigan had cut a seven-point deficit to 48-45 with nine minutes to play. As they did from nearly beginning to end -- they trailed at the half, 31-30 -- the Blue Devils did much of their damage along the baseline.

Sophomore swingman Grant Hill, who totaled 18 points and 10 rebounds, clearly found something in Michigan's defense when he drove the left baseline for two layups in about 30 seconds late in the first half. Hill, of Reston, Va., was named player of the game for Duke.

Freshman forward Chris Webber (14 points) was player of the game for Michigan, which shot a meager 29 percent, 9 for 31, in the second half and ended with its lowest point total in eight years.

Junior point guard Bobby Hurley (nine points, seven assists) was named the Final Four MVP. He tied his career high with 26 points in the semifinal win over Indiana on Saturday. Senior center Christian Laettner, after an atrocious first 10 minutes, ended up with a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds.

Duke (34-2) becomes the first team to repeat as national champions since UCLA won seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. It also becomes the first team to remain top-ranked from the preseason polls through the postseason tournament since Indiana in 1976.

"This is the greatest year I've ever had as a coach," said Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, "and to culminate it with this victory. ... It's been incredible coaching these guys. To be number one all season and do the things they did, they were the best."

"It keeps getting better each time," said Hurley. "It wasn't the prettiest game but we got the job done."

Michigan (25-9) and its five freshman stars can look to the future with thoughts of a tremendous, and mostly unanticipated, run through the tournament. The school's athletic department was so pleased that it announced Sunday that it would host a pep rally honoring the team this afternoon at Crisler Arena, regardless of last night's outcome.

The second half began with Michigan guard Jalen Rose whispering in Hill's ear as the teams lined up to begin play. Hill just grinned, and the Blue Devils all could grin early on.

Laettner quickly converted a fast-break layup and a three-point goal, and Thomas Hill (16 points, seven rebounds) drove the baseline for another layup that gave Duke a 37-33 lead. Hill's play was a continuation of the first-half success the Blue Devils -- Grant Hill, in particular (he didn't appear bothered by the bruised knee he suffered in Saturday's game) -- had attacking Michigan along the baseline.

Said Grant Hill: "Coach told us about that before the game in the scouting report, that the drive was there."

Rose and Webber, Michigan's spearheads through the tournament, then committed their third fouls 33 seconds apart, the latter with about 17 minutes to play. They each departed, but only momentarily. Duke missed a couple of chances to increase its lead to six, but it continued to make some progress.

With the score 41-39 and 12:45 left, Rose committed his fourth foul trying to prevent a third-chance basket by Cherokee Parks. He was replaced by junior Michael Talley. Michigan recouped a bit a few seconds later, when Hurley committed his third foul, pursuing a loose ball.

However, after a TV timeout with a little more than 11 minutes left, Laettner made one of his trademark game-altering three-pointers for a 46-39 Duke lead, the game's largest margin to that point. It prompted Michigan Coach Steve Fisher to send Rose back into the game.

The Wolverines responded with two baskets while Duke missed three relatively easy shots. Hurley then made it four misses in a row, and committed his fourth foul trying to take the rebound from Webber, of all people, with nine minutes left. He initially stayed in, then departed.

Meanwhile, Duke's cold shooting continued, and when Rose cut the margin to 48-45 with seven minutes left, Duke called time out. Laettner went baseline for a reverse layup and then stole an entry lob pass for Webber. Duke proceeded to work the shot clock below five seconds before Grant Hill again drove the baseline for another layup, making the score 52-45.

Michigan's problems continued to mount. Jimmy King missed a three-pointer, and Webber committed his fourth foul with 5:17 remaining -- a foul that also put Duke into the one-and-one. He stayed in, but Michigan took a timeout to regroup.

Play resumed with Laettner converting the one-and-one for a 54-45 bulge. Michigan's James Voskuil made two free throws, but Thomas Hill made a third-chance layup and Grant Hill continued Duke's pounding of the Wolverines' baseline defense by driving to and under the goal against the foul-saddled Rose for a dunk that made it 58-47 with 3{ minutes left.

Webber scored to make it 58-49, but Grant Hill scored on a tip-in, made a steal, and after Duke spread the court, he passed to Antonio Lang for a dunk that made it 62-49 with 1:50 to play. Michigan called time and the celebration was on.