- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2005

This was supposed to be the season in which Duke fell from the top of a deeply talented ACC. With five other league teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, the Blue Devils were picked to finish fourth.

So much for that prediction. Duke won its sixth ACC tournament championship in seven years yesterday, surviving Georgia Tech’s late rally for a gritty 69-64 victory before 20,301 at MCI Center.

“This was a team no one really expected a lot from this year, but you can [always] expect a lot from our team,” Duke guard Daniel Ewing said. “We’ve just been building to this point. We’ll be a typical Duke team in the [NCAA] tournament, trying to play for a national championship.”

Duke (25-5), which played itself into a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament, tied North Carolina with 15 tournament crowns, most in ACC history, and coach Mike Krzyzewski won his ninth title.

Blue Devils guard J.J. Redick earned tournament MVP honors after scoring a game-high 26 points against Georgia Tech, including two free throws with 24 seconds remaining for a 67-64 lead.

“Today was a good day,” Redick said. “I missed my last few [field goal attempts]. I guess maybe it was a little bit of fatigue, but my shot felt good.”

Duke center Shelden Williams dominated Georgia Tech counterpart Luke Schenscher underneath with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks and had a game-sealing tip-in with three seconds remaining. Schenscher managed only six points and eight rebounds.

“I thought [Williams] was the most important player,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “He was the guy that really allowed them to do a lot of what they do offensively. We hear about Redick and Ewing, but Shelden Williams is the answer to the whole thing.”

Georgia Tech (19-11) shot only 29.6 percent from the field, including just 4-for-20 on 3-pointers, and as a result had several long scoring droughts. Guard B.J. Elder (19 points) was 3-for-16, and guard Will Bynum (14 points) was 4-for-17 after scoring 35 points against North Carolina on Saturday.

“We got looks,” Hewitt said. “We just didn’t make [shots].”

Actually, neither team shot well; Duke hit only 39.3 percent. Both teams went scoreless during a four-minute stretch between TV timeouts, and each endured two droughts of more than four minutes. Duke often had trouble getting past midcourt within the required 11 seconds because of Georgia Tech’s suffocating press.

“We had little triumphs going on out there,” Krzyzewski said. “One was getting the ball past midcourt.”

Duke used a 9-0 run midway through the second half for a 50-37 cushion. However, Georgia Tech finally started hitting some outside shots when guard Jarrett Jack returned after spraining his ankle minutes earlier to score seven points and rally the Yellow Jackets within 58-53.

Duke didn’t hit a field goal from 8:47 until Williams’ last-second tip but made 14 free throws down the stretch. Georgia Tech managed only three field goals in the final three minutes but still crept within 65-64 with 24.3 seconds left before Redick and Williams iced the game.

Note — Ewing, Williams, Redick, Bynum and North Carolina’s Ray Felton were named to the all-tournament team. Virginia’s J.R. Reynolds, Clemson’s Shawan Robinson, N.C. State’s Julius Hodge and Ilian Evtimov and Jack were second team.

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