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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENTS : Duke's Bite Worse Than Dog's Bark : Southeast: Blue Devils hold Purdue's Robinson to season-low 13 points in 69-60 victory.

March 27, 1994|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Those were the oldest tricks in the book Duke taught the Big Dog Saturday night, the one about defense and teamwork paying off and the one about five always beating one, even if the one is All-Canine and the five are the leanest Mike Krzyzewski has brought down this pike in many a moon.

Purdue's Glenn Robinson finally met his match against a Duke team that has no Christian Laettner, has no Bobby Hurley and had no Grant Hill for the six most important minutes of the 1994 NCAA Southeast Regional final.

Duke's fleas ran Big Dog out of this tournament, 69-60, buzzing at his kneecaps, swarming around his face, pestering Rob inson into his poorest shooting performance of the season and bringing Purdue down with him before 23,370 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The fleas were green (freshman Jeff Capel) and they were small (Chris Collins, the shortest Blue Devil) and they were Meek (Erik, Duke's backup center), but they were all over the place. Robinson's all-court, any-angle repertoire doesn't need much operating room, but Duke allowed him next to zero, and Purdue's meal ticket punched out with a six-for-22, 13-point brickfest--including a scoreless spell of nearly 15 minutes.

Thirteen points are a season low, 18 below Robinson's season average and 31 below Robinson's 44-point virtuoso against Kansas on Thursday night. Only twice this season had Robinson scored fewer than 20 points in a game--18 against Western Michigan and 15 against Wisconsin.

But until a meaningless dunk in the final 30 seconds, Robinson had been held to 11 points by Duke, including a 17-minute 56-second stretch in which he failed to score a field goal.

"We have been to a lot of regional championship games," said Krzyzewski, who is 7-0 in these things, "and this is as good as any we've played in."

In particular, Krzyzewski pointed to a six-minute period late in the second half with Hill, Duke's best player and defender, on the bench with his fourth foul.

Hill left the game with 9:54 left and the Devils nursing a 46-41 lead.

When he returned, with 3:52 remaining, that lead was 56-50. During those six minutes, Robinson managed but a single basket.

"I thought when Grant Hill got that fourth foul . . . I didn't know what to think," Krzyzewski said. "What I saw the next six minutes was some of our best basketball this year.

"Fate has a funny way of dealing with things. Finally, all of a sudden, in this most important moment, the people Grant Hill brought along all year were the ones bringing him along."

Capel, a 19-year-old guard averaging eight points a game, scored 19 in this one and personally out-highlighted Robinson with a behind-the-back bounce pass to Antonio Lang and a breakaway rim-hanging jam that burst the game open.

Lang, assigned to Robinson when Hill left the game, also scored 19 points, and center Cherokee Parks chipped in 15 points of his own and did whatever he could to narrow the Big Dog gap.

"When things were getting rough," Hill said, "whenever there was a stoppages of play, Cherokee would start calling me 'Big Dog' . . . Eventually, he was calling everybody on our team 'Big Dog.' 'Way to go, Big Dog!' That's part of Cherokee's personality, to keep everybody loose."

And what did the real Mr. Dog have to say about the evening's proceedings?

Not a whole lot.

Robinson's opening postgame statement: "It was a great game. We fought hard. They won the ballgame."

A few minutes later, someone worked up the courage to ask Robinson if he could please elaborate on his, uh, off-night.

"Everyone's gonna have a bad game," he glowered. "I didn't pick the best time to have a bad game, but I'm not ashamed at all.

"At the beginning of the season, I opened Sports Illustrated and Street and Smith's and they were calling us the 30th-best team in the country, 35th, 29th. . . . The Chicago Tribune, before the start of conference, said 'Purdue wasn't a good team, Purdue was a one-man team, believe me, at the end of the season, Purdue won't be in the top 10.'

"We made you guys look like fools."

Then, the inevitable question: Was this the final collegiate game for Robinson, a junior expected to be the No. 1 selection in the NBA draft, if and when?

"Who asked that?" Robinson snarled.

A hand went up in the audience.

Robinson shot him a glare that could have melted a backboard.

"Until I have a press conference, no."

Hill scored only 11 points but was named outstanding player of the regional, primarily for his defensive work on Robinson.

"Grant had to expend the most energy out there, so he had to pick his spots on offense," Krzyzewski said. "He's the best defensive player in the country. Has been for two years."

And now Hill's back in the Final Four for the third time in his four years at Duke. For Krzyzewski, this is his seventh Final Four in the last nine years--and possibly his most surprising.

"We are not devoid of talent, we have talent, but I knew we had a chance not to be a Final Four team--nothing against you guys," Krzyzewski said, glancing across the dais at Hill, Lang and Capel. "To be honest, I'm a little bit shocked."

Krzyzewski called this Duke group "not a great team, but a good team with heart."

That may not beat a team with the best offensive force in the nation every time, but given his druthers, Krzyzewski will take his chances.

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