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Williams Looks Just Fine


GREENSBORO, N.C. — So much for Jason Williams' bum ankle.

The Duke point guard looked as dangerous as ever Saturday, collecting 31 points and nine assists to lead the No. 1-seeded Blue Devils to a 94-81 East Regional victory over Missouri at Greensboro Coliseum.

The victory assured Duke (31-4) of its fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 and a game Thursday against UCLA, which advanced with a 75-50 victory over Utah State.

Williams sprained his ankle against North Carolina a week ago and was expected to be a bit slower than usual. He was nothing of the sort, slashing his way past Missouri defenders and making five three-point baskets.

"Jason has been playing like that all year," teammate Mike Dunleavy Jr. said. "It's a tremendous boost when you have a player like that. It makes it easy for the rest of us. He's pretty hard to stop."

Forward Shane Battier was no picnic, either. He scored 15 of his 27 points in the second half and helped his team pull away after Missouri cut the lead to 63-62 with 10:42 remaining.

The Blue Devils answered with a 13-4 run over the next three minutes to push the lead back to double digits. Missouri (20-13) came no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

"When it got to 63-62, the insecure part of me said to call [a timeout]," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The part of me that believed in my team said, 'Shut up and just let them play.' Thank goodness that part won."

It was a particularly special victory for Krzyzewski, who was squaring off against his former point guard, Missouri Coach Quin Snyder. Surrounded by photographers, the two embraced before and after the game.

"I got a little bit emotional before the game when I saw him," Krzyzewski said. "I love Quin. In addition to loving him, I respect Quin. He has passion, heart and the ability to communicate with his players. His players believe in him."

Snyder played under Krzyzewski at Duke from 1986 through '89--helping the Blue Devils to three Final Fours--and was his assistant coach from '96 through '99.

"A couple of times I caught myself looking down at the Duke bench and thinking, 'Wow, that's Coach K down there,' " Snyder said. "It was part strange and part scary."

Missouri trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, but made things interesting in the second, thanks to the shooting of sophomore forward Kareem Rush, the younger brother of former UCLA player JaRon Rush.

Rush scored 29 points and made five three-point shots--three in the second half--and looked every bit as talented as Williams and Battier, even though he was playing with a bandage on his injured left thumb.

"I was able to get by my man and get shots today," he said. "[But] I was kind of selfish today, and that's not me."

Duke has won 91 of 92 games against unranked teams, and 34 of 37 games in road or neutral contests. The Blue Devils are 21-0 this season when scoring 90 or more points.

Williams extended his school record of three-point baskets in a season to 120; Battier is second with 115.

"There were a lot of points where Duke could have broken us," Snyder said. "But our kids responded. When they went small and spread the floor, Jason and Shane took the game over."

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