Duke Fights Off Georgia Tech 69-64, Reclaims ACC Tournament Title
March 13, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) - New location, familiar ending.
The Atlantic Coast Conference brought its annual tournament to the nation's capital for the first time, and this version had all the excitement of the 51 that preceded it. And when all 400 minutes of basketball were completed, there was Duke, cutting down the nets to celebrate another championship.
Tournament MVP J.J. Redick scored 26 points, Shelden Williams had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-ranked Blue Devils held off a late charge to squeeze past Georgia Tech 69-64 Sunday.
"I'm so proud of my team. Not just for this game but for the whole season," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They've found ways to win."
Third-seeded Duke won despite making only one field goal over the final 11 minutes - a tip-in by Williams just before the final buzzer.
"The key was we played really good defense," Krzyzewski said, referring to Georgia Tech's 30 percent shooting from the field.
The Blue Devils (25-5) have won 15 ACC tournaments, tying archrival North Carolina for most in league history. But while the Tar Heels haven't added to their ledger since 1998, the Blue Devils have won six of seven - the lone exception being last year, when they fell in overtime to Maryland in the title game.
"We've been fortunate. We've won a few," Krzyzewski said. "I'm happy that I was on the train that Daniel (Ewing), Shelden and J.J. conducted. It's been a heck of a ride this year."
Duke, which never trailed, went 15-for-20 at the free throw line over the final 9 minutes to fend off the pesky Yellow Jackets (19-11).
Georgia Tech used an 8-0 run to close to 56-51 with 4:56 left. A 3-pointer by Anthony Morrow cut the margin to three with 1:54 left, and two free throws by teammate Will Bynum made it 64-62 with 1:27 to go.
After a miss by Redick, Bynum missed a jumper in the lane and Lee Melchionni made one of two foul shots for a three-point lead. Jeremis Smith then misfired for the Yellow Jackets, but Tech got the ball back with 34 seconds remaining.
A basket by Morrow got Tech within one, but Redick was fouled on the inbounds and made two free throws to make it 67-64. After Bynum was off target on a 3-pointer, Duke's David McClure missed two foul shots, but Williams tipped in the second one to preserve the win.
"No one predicted we'd be sitting here today," said Redick, who went 10-for-10 at the line.
Jarrett Jack scored 19 points for the Yellow Jackets, who fell short in their bid to win the ACC championship for the first time since 1993 but erased any doubt as to their worthiness in the NCAA tournament.
"I think we can take pride in this," Jack said. "We showed we won't back down from anyone, no matter who it is."
Bynum, who scored a career-high 35 in Georgia Tech's semifinal win over top-seeded North Carolina, was limited to 14 points on 4-for-17 shooting.
"I'm proud of our effort to battle back into the game," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "At the end of the game we got looks but we just didn't make them."
The Blue Devils have won 19 of 20 against the Yellow Jackets, including three this season.
Duke led by four points early in the second half before Redick hit a jumper, Williams scored on a dunk, Redick made a layup and Ewing hit a 3-pointer to make it 50-37. It became 52-39 on a layup by Shavlik Randolph with 11:15 to go, but the Blue Devils suddenly went cold and struggled to maintain the lead.
"That's kind of been how our season went," Jack said. "There's been a lot of games where we dug ourselves holes, fought back but came up short. Today was another case."
The Duke dynasty took a hit last year, and after second-ranked North Carolina won the regular season title and the Blue Devils finished behind third-ranked Wake Forest, it appeared as if a change at the top was in order.
But Georgia Tech disposed of North Carolina in the semifinals and North Carolina State eliminated Wake Forest in the second round, paving the way for the Blue Devils to win the league crown.
"It's a big-time win for us," Williams said. "Coming into the season, a lot of people didn't think we'd be in position to win the ACC. They had us in the middle of the pack. So this is very special for us."
Duke has won 77 games in the ACC tournament, one more than runner-up North Carolina. The Blue Devils have played in eight straight title games, by far the longest streak in league history.
Were it not for Maryland's upset last year, Duke's run of titles would be at seven.
"Today was a great moment for our team," Redick said. "Last year really wasn't on my mind until after the game. Then I just kind of got emotional. I thought back to the disappointment of last year, and then this year."