Duke Tallies Sixth ACC Tournament Title In Seven Seasons
March 13, 2005
By DAVID DROSCHAK
WASHINGTON - Fans around the Atlantic Coast Conference are wondering just how this is possible.
Just how Duke came away with another ACC championship with tons of injuries, a thin bench and - in Sunday's title game - serious foul trouble that left the Blue Devils without a point guard down the stretch.
But unlike last season when Duke blew a nine-point lead to Maryland in the final few minutes of regulation, this Duke team managed to pull it out with grit, determination and the best coach in the business.
"Everything about the program is like perfection," Georgia Tech's Will Bynum said following Duke's 69-64 win over the Yellow Jackets, giving the Blue Devils six ACC crowns in the last seven seasons. "They go out there and show that perfection when they're on the court."
Few would argue that Mike Krzyzewski turned in a masterful coaching job with this group to win his ninth ACC crown in 25 years. He juggled his bench all season like a circus performer and motivated with encouragement more than a sharp tongue.
It paid off in March.
"I'm speechless," Krzyzewski said. "I'm astounded we're the ACC champions. My team has found a ways to win all season with an incredible heart."
"He's been unbelievable, more so than any other year I've been here -- just how involved he's been with us on a day-to-day basis in practice and the games," tournament MVP J.J. Redick said. "The thing he's done this year is he's really taught us the game of basketball and stressed the things that put us in position to win games."
Redick was sensational again, following up his 35-point effort in the semifinals with 26 points in another 40-minute game for the junior sharpshooter.
And Shelden Williams was another rock under the boards, getting 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
"For me, this is pretty personal after what happened last year in the ACC Tournament," said Redick, who was a miserable 3-for-17 from 3-point range as Duke saw it's five-year title run snapped. "It means a lot to win this championship with this group of guys."
But it wasn't just the stars willing Duke (25-5) to a win Sunday. The Blue Devils got plenty of help from its role players, such as Shavlik Randolph's nine rebounds and three blocks, Lee Melchionni's four free throws in the final 3:43 and David McClure's rebound with 6.3 seconds left with the Blue Devils clinging to a three-point lead.
Randolph, who suffered through mono and missed a month of the season, logged a season-high 38 minutes, but he said Duke was far from being drained heading into the NCAA Tournament.
"If anything, we'll get a bounce off this," he said. "We're going to kind of use this as a stepping stone for other things we want to accomplish. This isn't the end of our journey. You don't get many opportunities in March, and coach gets that across to us."
"This time of year you don't get tired," added Daniel Ewing. 'We're ready to go."
"We've got a lot left in the tank," said Redick, who played in 116 of Duke's 120 tournament minutes.
Most of the Duke players pointed to Krzyzewski as the glue that held the fort down during tough times.
"In the back of your mind this is what you hope for, this is what your work for, but when everyone is in your our ear saying we were going to be fifth or sixth in the conference you have doubts," Randolph said. "There were definitely times when we doubted. But when we started at the top of the conference we believed we could beat anybody and we took that confidence into each game."
"Coach never made any excuses about what was going on in the program," added Williams. "We showed heart every time we played."
It wouldn't have been a game without Duke facing some kind of adversity again. The Blue Devils had to play the final 1:27 with the 6-foot-4 Redick as the smallest player on the floor as the injured Sean Dockery watched in street clothes, and Ewing and DeMarcus Nelson fouled out.
"I definitely think the key to winning today was doing all the little things right," said Randolph. "Two of our ballhandlers fouled out of the game, yet we were still able to maintain and have poise."
The countless doubters have now dwindled off into March obscurity, not to be heard from again.
"We've the ACC champions and the last time I looked it said Duke across our chests," said Melchionni.