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Andrea Bookman |ACC Today

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Since some people have trouble accessing directories called games from work,
we are crossposting game reports on the main page. This is the same story you'll
see on Games Past

Sometimes when you go to a game which hits a higher level of passion it's
hard to understand what you've seen until some time has gone by.  We
suspect it's that way with this game.

State under Herb Sendek has seemed kind of like your annoying kid brother,
like that kid in Fox Trot. It's a good thing he's little because he's dogged and
tough, and when he grows up he's going to still be smart as hell but he's also
going to try to take you to the woodshed.

Meet State 2000.  The Pack is basically grown up now, and capable of
going toe to toe with Duke on the road, which means they can probably play with
most teams in the country, particularly with the brand of defense they

We're not sure how well this game translated to TV. The inclination is to
think that it's just ugly and mistake-ridden, but that's not the case, though
there were mistakes. The reason there were mistakes was because two sensational
defenses when at it hammer and tong, and neither could fully stop the other and
the end of the game was like the end of a Rocky movie, where both sides kept
slugging, though there was nothing much left to give.  

The result? Duke, playing six players for the most part, was exhausted at the
end, but had enough left in the tank to get the job done. State fouled more than
they might have had they not also been tired and thus lost Thornton and Grundy
to fouls.  What you saw was two defensive heavyweights pounding each
other's brains in, both with the will to win, but of course only one team can.
Duke played better defense in the overtime (and better offense, too), and so
they won the game.

This should be clear to everyone: seeing a game like this is a privilege, a
rarity. It's probably too early to tell for sure, but this game reminds us of
some absolute classics in Duke history, like the upset of UNC (was it 72?) when
they were #3 and Duke was DOA, or the raucous atmosphere in Cameron when Duke
had the first great victory under Foster, upsetting Maryland, or the UNC game
where Jeff Capel hit the running 35 footer, or the 88 tournament game which was
possibly the most brutal Duke game ever, though tonight's was close.

Jason Williams will come in for some criticism for missing the 3 point shot
he took near the end of regulation, and badly, and for losing the ball after
State scored, but we would dissent. First of all, he was the one who harassed
Justin Gainey into losing the ball and calling a timeout he didn't have. 
Secondly, and more importantly, as he delves further into the college basketball
universe, he is beginning to understand his place in the firmament.  Every
so often in a game you can see a switch go on as he realizes, "I'm better
than this guy."  He had that tonight, though Gainey, to his credit,
did a lot of things to put his team in position to win.  Nonetheless, Jason
is starting to realize that he really is more gifted than most of his opponents,
and his confidence is rising. He made some mistakes tonight, but he's a freshman
and that's what they do.  He also pounced on a senior who has been through
everything, at an absolutely critical moment, and not only made him lose his
balance but also his cool and caused a near catastrophe for State. 
Williams is growing in leaps and bounds, and you can see this mostly in his
confidence and the way he attacks his man on offense and defense. 

It's also worth mentioning that not only did Duke play a six man rotation
with short appearances by Horvath, Christensen, and Sanders, they played a six
man rotation in an overtime game with a powerful and determined foe - and did so
with three freshmen.  The commonly expressed notion that "they aren't
freshmen anymore," which is trotted out like clockwork each year by
mid-January, is crap.  Dunleavy is a freshman, and physically, he might as
well be a high school senior.  Williams is learning a new position, since
he didn't play point in high school, and Boozer lost a lot of valuable time to
his foot injury.  They are still freshmen, and from time to time they'll
play like it.  But they are playing with three guys in C-well, Battier, and
James, who have tremendous heart, and the kids are showing that they have heart

A factor worth mentioning which could use more discussion - Johnny Dawkins
designed the conditioning program that allows Duke to be in a brutal game of
attrition, and to have enough energy left to prevail.  Kudos to Johnnny for
a superb job.  He deserves enormous credit for that.

Now for the controversy: referees have a very difficult job to do. We
generally believe in cutting them slack as much as possible, as we think they
all do their jobs to the best of their ability and God knows we could never do
it.  As a policy we only comment on officiating when the play in question
affects the outcome.  In the case of the Battier foul on Gainey, Battier
was clearly trying to foul Gainey so he couldn't get off a three point shot.
Just because he managed to throw the ball after he was fouled doesn't mean it
was a three shot foul. There's no continuance in college hoops.  After
that, when he missed deliberately, we haven't seen it yet but we understand that
Kenny Inge fouled Battier, thus allowing Williams to score the tying
basket.  We were told that by someone we respect, and to be clear, we
haven't seen it, but if that's correct then that compounded the original
error.  Now one could make the argument that Battier should have been
called for an intentional foul, which it clearly was, but that's different.

In a game like this, it's hard to discuss anyone individually, but Duke fans
should treasure each game Chris Carrawell has left.  What he's accomplished
at Duke is fairly unique, and he's gone from being a nifty utility player to
being a star, likely ACC Player Of The Year, and a serious candidate for the
Wooden Award.  Once you start talking about individuals, though, you have
to talk about Boozer's play, and Battier's, and Nate James' fire and on and on
and on.  The problem with that, of course, is that it's a team game, and
especially a game like tonight's takes a team effort to succeed. Both teams
responded with everything they had, and the game lived up to the finest
traditions of the ACC, Cameron, Reynolds, Krzyzewski, Case, Sloan, Bubas,
Valvano, and all of it.  What a great game. We felt privileged to witness
it, and to see the coming of age of a revitalized NC State. It's been too long.

Notes - Duke, State, and UVa are all now solid bets for the NCAA...UNC,
Maryland, and Wake will determine their own fates...Clemson, FSU and Tech are
almost certainly not going, though Tech theoretically could get hot or win the
tourney or could see people, even State fans, smiling when they
left, knowing they'd seen a great one...Duke is now solidly in control of first
place....Boozer's athleticism has really come on in a serious way...his block of
Wilkins was dramatic..yet at one point Coach K pulled him immediately,
apparently for not chasing a loose ball...lesson learned....



Hit Man Checks In!

Duke opened the game with some very strong play, which was further
fueled by the emotion of the crowd. Chris Carrawell, for the most part,
built an early 8-0 lead - K even designed a play for him right off the tip,
where he really took advantage of Gainey's height, or lack thereof. The
Crazies were really beginning to rock, when Herb Sendek used the first of
those fateful timeouts. This one was well placed, and it served to calm
down NC State a bit, and the battle was on. 

The Wolfpack charged back to
take the lead, and was helped out by some sloppy play and easy turnovers by
Duke. Quite a few times players simply let the ball slip through their
fingers, which was unsettling to see. Along those lines, Boozer was pulled
for a bit after he tried to pick up a loose ball standing still, rather than
diving aggressively for it. This allowed Casey Sanders to get some playing
time against a solid frontcourt. 

Casey performed admirably; working hard
on both the offensive and defensive ends. He set some nice high screens on
offense, and smartly rotated over in the low post to draw a charge on
defense, prompting a chant of "Casey Sanders" to erupt from the crowd. He
probably would have earned himself some more time if it weren't for the
close nature of the game.

The game went back and forth for most of the half, the notable
aspects being NC State's free throw shooting and the refereeing. The
latter being questionable, and the former blazing hot. That 58% figure must
have been an aberration, because they hit something like 31-37 against Wake,
and nailed all but two in the first half today. Those two misses came when
a grad student held up a sign reading, "Yur Mom is yur sister". 

As for the
referees, I thought they did a pretty bad job overall, as I saw blown calls
on both sides of the ball. From my biased standpoint, I felt more went
against Duke, but take that with a grain of salt. At one point in the game,
the crowd responded to a particularly egregious call with a chant of, "If
you can't go to State be a ref". Jason especially seemed to enjoy that

Speaking of Jason, he seemed to injure himself early in the game,
something related to a finger on his shooting hand. The training staff
immobilized it somehow, but it noticeably affecting his shooting, especially
from long range. At one point in the second half he ripped off the bandage
and threw it at the bench in disgust. 

Other than that, Chris Carrawell worked hard at keeping us in the
game, hitting for seventeen in the first half. We scored the last shot of
the half, which put us up two at the break. Once again, Coach K completely
ran the last play of the half, going so far as to verbally position players
on the floor, and tell Jason exactly when to drive the ball. This is
something I had never seen him do before this year, and I am not sure if it
was because of his hip, or because of the experience of guards like Wojo and
Avery. (Or maybe the relative lack of importance, since we were usually up
by 20).

The second half was just as close as the first. Neither team built any
substantial leads. Both had 6-7 point cushions at one point in the half,
but neither had the ability to put the game out of reach. The biggest
change from the first to the second half was that Duke did a great job
getting to the free throw line. Free throw shooting is going to win this
team more than one game down the stretch of the season. A scary moment
came when Jason had a knee-on-knee collision with a State player and emerged
limping. He sat out momentarily, but even when he returned you could see
him occasionally grimacing - which just makes me even more impressed with
the tenacious defense he provided down the stretch.

As the clock dwindled, the noise level kept increasing, and our
collective nerves began to fray. One more mental lapse came, as Boozer
broke free on an inbounds play, and Battier hit him with a home run pass.
Unfortunately, Boozer dribbled the ball off of his foot and out of bounds.
The crowd was stunned, but Jason Williams quickly raised his hands in the
air, bringing the Crazies back to life for the defensive stand. Finally,
with less than 30 seconds to go, Chris Carrawell hit a running shot off of a
spin move in the lane to put us up by one point. On the ensuing possession,
Jason played Gainey tight, and forced him to fall to the ground. Before he
traveled Gainey managed to call a timeout, but alas, NC State had long since
run out of them. The crowd was quick to call for the technical foul, and
soon after, a loud chorus of "Chris Webber" could be heard. Shane nailed
both free throws, Dunleavy was fouled on the next possession, and he also
made good on his free throws. This put us up five with around ten seconds
to go, and it seemed as if the game was all but ours.

Coach K called a quick timeout to set the defense, and a thundering
chant of "Our house, our house" echoed throughout Cameron. However, NC
State got a ridiculously quick and easy lay-up on their trip up the floor,
and Jason Williams then proceeded to fumble the inbounds pass into the
crowd. Memories of the Clemson game two years back, when Shane dropped an
inbounds to set up some tense last seconds. This gaffe provided State the
chance to go for the tie with 2.9 seconds left. Gainey got the ball, and
Coach K could clearly be seen exhorting the team to foul. Battier did so,
noticeably before the shot in my estimation, but the referee called it a
shooting foul. With the crowd at its loudest and the band members flailing
about, Gainey hit his first shot, but missed the second. We thought the
game was won (only 0.8 on the clock), and apparently so did our players,
because they neglected to concentrate on blocking out, and allowed Gainey's
purposely missed third shot to be rebounded and put in by Marshall Williams.
Shockingly, the game was now tied, and we were headed for overtime.

Thankfully, the team was able to regroup, and put their mistakes
behind them. They came out with a purpose, and controlled the overtime
period. Boozer was the real star of the endgame, converting layups,
blocking shots and playing tough defense - all with four fouls. All five
Dukies, Williams, C-Well, Battier, Boozer and Dunleavy played truly
excellent man-to-man defense. Chris Carrawell once again hit some key free
throws down the stretch, and Nate James came off the bench to ice the game
with two final free throws. A 92-88 win for the Blue Devils, preserving
both the 28 game ACC winning streak, and 44 game home winning steak.

Respect must be paid to NC State; they played a great game, despite
the outcome. Their man-to-man defense is tough to break, and their offense
is good enough to get the job done. Credit is also due to Damien Wilkins,
who showed some real promise. State really tried to get him a lot of
touches, especially in the last few minutes of the game. He forced Duke to
begin double-teaming him in the second half, a sure sign of his increasing
skill. Sendek is playing with a full deck for the first time in recent
memory, and for my money, he and his team have earned a spot in the top