- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001


MINNEAPOLIS College basketball's best program of the past four years, thanks mostly to classy forward Shane Battier, finally got the national title it deserved.
Holding off a series of counterpunches by Arizona last night, the Blue Devils finished the task their 1999 juggernaut could not. Before 45,994 at the Metrodome, Duke captured its third championship and first since consecutive titles in 1991-92.
The victory was Duke's 133rd of the past four seasons, an NCAA record for such a stretch. Participating in 131 of those wins tying another NCAA mark with Kentucky's Wayne Turner was Battier, the national player of the year and the Final Four's most outstanding player.
"Words can't do justice to what I'm feeling," Battier said after scoring 18 points, including three straight key baskets in the last 4* minutes. "Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] is just a tremendous influence on my life. To give him his third championship, to set him apart from those who have won two, it's the best."
Sophomore Mike Dunleavy led the Blue Devils (35-4) with 21 points, 18 after halftime. Battier's performance included 11 rebounds, six assists and no turnovers, while star point guard Jason Williams scored 16 points to break the school single-season scoring record with 841 on the year.
A Wildcats season dedicated to Bobbi Olson, the late wife of coach Lute Olson who died Jan. 1 of ovarian cancer, fell just short in the school's second trip to the title game. This season Arizona overcame an 8-5 start, early suspensions to two starters and Bobbi Olson's death but could not get past Duke's big rallies in last night's second half.
"It's all about growing up," Wildcats center Loren Woods said of the emotional year. "We came to college as boys, and we are leaving as men. [Olson] has taught us courage, patience and dignity for the program and our family."
Woods finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Wildcats (28-8), and forward Richard Jefferson scored 19. Shooting guard Gilbert Arenas, who bruised his chest in Saturday's semifinal win over Michigan State, was limited by the injury and hit just four of 17 shots for 10 points.
Arizona's loss continued an improbable streak in which the preseason's No. 2 team (in this case, Duke) beat the preseason's No. 1 team each time the two met in the title game. The last time No. 2 beat No. 1, it was Connecticut over Duke in 1999, when the Blue Devils entered the game 37-1 seeking a spot among history's greatest teams.
"I knew we were going to have to play a courageous game tonight, and we did," Krzyzewski said. "It was truly a great team effort, and I'm so glad these kids won. They're certainly deserving of the national championship."
Duke used an 8-2 run midway through the first half to take a 20-17 lead, with center Carlos Boozer (12 points, 12 rebounds) hitting a pair of interior baskets to cap the surge. Boozer had scored 19 points in Saturday's semifinal win over Maryland after having just three in his first two games back from a broken foot.
The Wildcats tied the game 27-27 and 33-33 but did not retake the lead. Blue Devils freshman Chris Duhon scored a 3-pointer from the left corner to break the 27-27 tie with 3:02 left, and Williams made a blistering move on Jason Gardner and got a goaltending call on Jefferson to break the 33-33 tie, making it 35-33 at halftime.
Dunleavy scored three straight 3-pointers early in the second half to propel an 11-2 spree that gave Duke its largest lead at 50-39. The first came from the right side off a kick-out from Duhon; the third, off a rifle crosscourt assist from Williams, forced an Arizona timeout.
But the Wildcats stormed back with a 9-0 run, started on a 3-pointer by Jefferson. Forward Michael Wright and Woods closed the surge with interior baskets, cutting Duke's lead to 50-48.
The Blue Devils responded with consecutive baskets, both by Dunleavy to cap nice plays by Duhon and Casey Sanders, starting a 14-4 run that rebuilt a 64-52 lead. Dunleavy had five more points in the surge, on a layup and 3-pointer from the right corner, and Battier finished it with a three-point play on a jumper in the lane.
Arizona didn't help itself at the foul line, missing five of six attempts in one stretch, including the front end of two one-and-ones. The Wildcats' poor shooting during that spell, which extended into the field, blew an opportunity with Williams out of the game with four fouls.
Nonetheless, a 3-pointer by Jefferson cut the deficit to six points, and three straight blocks by Woods allowed the Wildcats to scrape to 68-65 with 5:23 remaining.
Duke's two stars, Battier and Williams, took over from there. Battier followed a Boozer miss with a two-handed jam, tipped in another miss with the back of his hand and threw down a tomahawk jam. Williams then put the game away with a 3-pointer with 1:43 left, giving the Blue Devils an 80-72 lead.
"[Battier] makes things happen," Olson said. "I don't think there's any question in anyone's mind that he's the player of the year. This is about as unanimous as it gets."

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