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NCAA FINAL

Dunleavy Gives Duke a Third Dimension

Winner: He finds the mark with long-range shooting just when Blue Devils need it the most.

April 03, 2001|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MINNEAPOLIS — Coach K can celebrate a third national championship thanks to a coach's kid.

Shane Battier may have willed Duke to its 82-72 NCAA title-clinching victory over Arizona, earning the tournament most outstanding player trophy in the process. And Jason Williams' three-point shot with 1:27 left was probably the shot that sealed it.

But Mike Dunleavy's 21 points--of which 18 came in the second half--are the pivotal reason why Arizona flew home without a title.

Dunleavy, son of Portland Trail Blazer Coach Mike Dunleavy (who was at the game), triggered the game's biggest turning point two minutes into the second half.

His only basket (in three attempts) in the first half was a three-pointer. But with Duke leading 40-37, he drilled a 25-footer to double the advantage. That suddenly turned on a light for Dunleavy. He followed a basket by Wildcat guard Jason Gardner with another three, and when Battier blocked Gardner's layup attempt on Arizona's ensuing possession, Dunleavy got the ball and made his third consecutive three-pointer.

In a 45-second span, Arizona went from down three to down 10, 49-39. And the lethal blows were from the guy who had made only six of 19 three-point shots coming into the game.

"I finally made my shots in the second half and it gave us a boost," said Dunleavy, who made four of six three-pointers in the second half. "I had told myself before the game to stay aggressive tonight. And even though the shots weren't going in the first half, it didn't change my mind-set.

"The first one I made was from pretty deep. But it got me going. I was feeling it. On the next two they got their hands up, but I was in a rhythm so it didn't matter."

"Those shots gave us confidence," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

His teammates felt Dunleavy, who made eight of 17 shots, was ready for a big game.

"I talked to him in the hotel room and told him, 'You're going to make it,' " Duke center Casey Sanders said. "He was in a very loose mood. He came out really loose, and when the time was right he took his shots and made them."

But before Duke and Dunleavy took off, there were some things the Blue Devils had to work out.

Although they led, 35-33, and had committed only five turnovers in the first half, the Blue Devils were having a difficult time finding open spaces to shoot against Arizona's zone defense. The Wildcats were able to quickly react to each Duke pass on the perimeter, and what looked like a moment of freedom turned quickly into a hand in the face.

It's one reason Duke was unable to get its three-point attack going, making just four of 15 in the first half. Putting the ball on the floor and driving on the Wildcats proved a marginally better strategy.

"You want to talk about toughness--come on, Arizona is so tough," Krzyzewski said. "Watching them on tape I knew they were good. When we started playing I saw they were better. I turned to (assistant coach) Johnny Dawkins and said, 'We have to play a courageous game tonight.' "

But despite getting outrebounded, 45-42, by Arizona and not being able to depend on its best weapon--the Blue Devils made only nine of 27 three-pointers--Duke established that 10-point second-half lead and the Wildcats never caught up.

In part because the coach's kid wouldn't let them.

"Mike is a phenomenal player. Phenomenal," Battier said. "He gets overshadowed by Jason and me, but I think he's as good as us."

As he cut down his piece of twine from the net, Dunleavy leaned over and kissed the basketball rim.

"I had to. It was good to me tonight," he said.

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