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Duke Defeats Illinois, Moves On To Elite Eight

A really useful way to measure the Illinois game is by looking at the Purdue
game, because Illinois coach Bruce Weber learned at Gene Keady's knee, and plays
a similar style, though with better athletes and less rigid offensively. Earlier
in the year, Duke couldn't handle it, and Coach K flew back from Alaska,
thinking his team would finish further down in the ACC than it ultimately
did. Saturday, though, they handled that kind of game with aplomb, winning 72-62

A big part of the credit goes to Chris Duhon, who had a pretty amazing game
for a guy who had trouble holding his defensive stance in recent days.
Aside from his 10 rebounds and eight assists, Duhon helped put a lot of pressure
on the Illini's guards. Dee Brown ended up with two points in the first
half, before finishing with 14, and running mate Deron Williams shot 3-13 and
ended up with seven points.

Duhon, JJ Redick, and Daniel Ewing ended up scoring 4, 17, and 11 points
respectively on a combined 12-23.

Sean Dockery added to the defensive pressure with a key steal in the first
half which was probably a turning point in the game: up until that point, it
looked a lot like the Purdue game. After that, though Illinois played
incredibly hard and hung around, there was never really a sense that they were
an obviously better team. Still dangerous, but certainly not inevitable.

Our favorite statsof the game, though, were probably Shelden Williams'
minutes and fouls: 35 minutes, two fouls. That makes Duke tough to
deal with. At times, particularly in the second half, he was amazingly
dominant and made the Illini's defense look much lamer than it actually
is. They're a very good defensive team, but Duke hit enough from outside
to open the inside, and with center James Augustine in foul trouble, Shelden
really didn't have much to stop him.

But to a large extent, this game was won because Duke controlled the guards
who ran wild against Cincinnati. Dee Brown went out at one point with
cramps, and Duke shot out to a 44-37 lead. Brown came back in, and hit
five points off that lead immediately. But as good as he was, Williams was
shackled, and Duke put the game away.

When you look at individual performances, obviously Duhon stands out as a
tremendously gutty effort. Really, considering that his injury in the ACC
Finals happened at a faster speed than a lot of car accident injuries, or
bicycle injuries for that matter, and that the healing period is measure in
weeks if not months, Duhon put on one of the more courageous efforts in Duke
history, and has been doing so since the conference finals.

But aside from that, Redick had a very solid game, Ewing played well, Deng
was very good, fouls aside, and Williams was dominant.

All of which is good. But when Shavlik Randolph comes in and starts
making the kind of plays he made, and Sean Dockery applies pressure, Duke is a
very, very hard team to beat.

Now it's on to the regional finals, where Duke has lost only once under Coach
K, and where Cinderella Xavier has never been. Duke has a couple of days
to figure out how to contain Xaver's guards, which won't be easy, and has to
hope Duhon can suck it up one more time. If they can do those things, and
continue their outstanding play, the Devils have an excellent shot of getting to
San Antonio.

Finally, a word about Illinois. This is a young team, and one which is going places. It took them a while to adjust to a new coach, but he has shown he is the real deal, and you can expect them to be around for a long time. We admired their effort and their heart.