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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / POSTSEASON TOURNAMENTS : SOUTHEAST REGIONAL : Duke Finds Itself in Purdue's Doghouse

March 26, 1994|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Remember Duke? Used to be the big name in this tournament. Used to win games in this tournament by sheer force of reputation, like that time Christian Laettner got the ball against Kentucky and five Wildcats recoiled in awe, allowing Laettner to sink the basket that sent Duke to its fifth consecutive Final Four.

Oh those vaunted Blue Devils, where have they gone?

Actually, they are here, reportedly set to vie for their sixth regional championship in seven years, although you would never know it from all the barking and yapping going on.

Here, it's Big Dog this, Big Dog that. Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson took a hefty bite out of Kansas on Thursday night, scoring 30 points in 20 minutes, 44 for the game, and the basketball-watching world can't wait to see more.

So Duke, two years removed from the NCAA championship, has seen its role reduced to Milk Bone in tonight's Southeast Regional final against Purdue.

Blue Devil forward Grant Hill has been through this sort of thing before--he was a freshman starter on the Duke team that beat unbeatable Nevada Las Vegas in 1991--but that didn't prevent him from playing second fiddle on Friday.

"If I am matched up with him," Hill deadpanned, "I guess the thing to do is pray.

"I was talking to Tony (Lang) earlier and we were saying that maybe we can go down to the Knoxville dog pound and pick him up before the game, I don't know," Hill said.

Hill called the first half of Purdue's 83-78 victory over Kansas "the Glenn Robinson Show." He said he was "just amazed, like everybody else in the building." He claimed that when Robinson dunked over Kansas' 7-foot-1 center Greg Ostertag, "I gave a high-five to Cherokee (Parks). That was exciting to watch."

Said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski: "One of the keys for us is that whoever goes up against Robinson--because different people will probably be on him--is not to be discouraged or disheartened by him scoring. He's going to score points. You don't stop Glenn Robinson, you only hope to contain him."

Krzyzewski paused to allow the cliche to sink in.

"That's never been said before," Krzyzewski joked. "That's an original.

Hill began the week bemoaning the lack of customary pomp surrounding Duke's arrival in Knoxville, counting the headlines stolen away by Robinson.

"I was tickled by Grant Hill's comments in the paper," Purdue Coach Gene Keady said. "If he thinks he's tired about getting no respect, he ought to come to West Lafayette. Or go and travel with me around the world. I go on a damn mountaintop, and there's some guy wearing a Duke T-shirt. I go out to the desert, play some golf in Palm Springs, and there's another guy wearing a Duke cap.

"He thinks he's tired of it, he ought to get in our shoes. I can relate to what he's saying, because I'm really tired of it, I can tell you that."

Keady has never been to a Final Four, Purdue hasn't gone since 1980 and once this run is done, so is Big Dog's. Robinson is headed for the NBA draft, top of his class.

Fatigue could be a factor because, according to Krzyzewski's calculations, Robinson has taken "300 more shots than anybody else on the team" and Robinson launched the ball another 33 times Thursday night.

"I kind of got tired," Robinson conceded. "That's why I took myself out of the game a couple of times. I didn't want to wear myself down by scoring all those points."

Because not shooting was never an option.

"All the shots I took, they were just falling," Robinson said. "So I kept shooting."

This is fine by Keady.

"I was sitting there last night saying, 'Man, that was a great shot,' " Keady said. "And, 'I don't see how he does it.' And, 'I'm sure glad he's playing for us.' "

Hill, a first-team All-American himself, played along as best he could until someone asked him, "When's the last time you played a game when you weren't the best player on the court?"

Hill arched an eyebrow.

"When I played the Dream Team," he shot back.

"That was because I was playing against guys I kind of idolized growing up. Jordan, Magic--everybody knows them. When I stepped on the court that night, I didn't think I was the best player out there for probably the first time in my life."

And tonight?

"When you're competing, you have to have confidence in yourself, and I have confidence in my game. I'm sure that when I step on that court, I will think I'm the best player on the court."

Every dog has its day, Hill was saying. Even that rarest of breeds, the underdog from Duke.

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