Originally created 03/10/02

Duke advances to finals

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Third-ranked Duke watched Maryland lose in the ACC semifinals, then made sure it didn't slip up similarly.

Seeing the No. 2 Terrapins, who snapped Duke's record streak of regular-season conference titles at five, fail to make the championship game reminded the Blue Devils to stay focused.

They certainly did, beating Wake Forest 79-64 Saturday to advance to the final and a chance at an ACC-record fourth straight tournament title.

"One of the things Coach did right before we came out was tell us Maryland was going to lose and, 'Don't overlook the opponent, don't look to Sunday,"' said Mike Dunleavy, who led Duke with 18 points. "It was important to remember what we had to do today, and we were pumped up at the start for it."

Carlos Boozer had 17 points and 16 rebounds, and Jason Williams scored 15 to put Duke (28-3) in the title game against fourth-seeded North Carolina State.

It's the first meeting in the championship game between the schools since 1966. The Wolfpack (22-9) got there with an 86-82 upset over Maryland.

Duke reached its 13th conference tourney final.

"We always try to be the uncommon team and set the goals that other teams don't reach because they are common," guard Chris Duhon said. "But we want to be the team that goes against all odds and goes down in the books as one of the most dominant teams ever. Four straight titles would do that."

Wake Forest (20-12) lost to Duke for the 13th straight time - meaning the Demon Deacons' six seniors will end their careers winless against the Blue Devils unless the two teams meet again in the NCAA tournament.

"Man, it's very disappointing," guard Craig Dawson said. "It's the only team I haven't beaten and it's discouraging. But we have to forget about that and try to make some noise in the NCAA tournament."

Wake Forest, which dropped its first two games against Duke this season by a combined 52 points, kept this one close after falling behind by 20 early in the first half.

The Demon Deacons never led but were within 51-50 with 11:14 to play.

But leading-scorer Darius Songaila went to the bench shortly after with his fourth foul and Josh Howard went out with an injured ankle. That opened the way for one of Duke's trademark runs.

Daniel Ewing struck first with a 3-pointer, and after a Wake basket, Duhon hit another 3 to make it 57-52.

Wake answered on Broderick Hicks' 3 that cut it to 57-55, but Duke scored nine straight points to put the game away.

After Williams hit just one of two free throws for Duke, he redeemed himself by sinking a 3 after a Wake turnover. Ewing then hit another 3, and Dunleavy capped the spurt with a long jumper - his only basket of the second half - that put Duke up 66-55 with 7:54 to play.

Any chance Wake Forest had to get back in the game ended shortly after when Songaila fouled out. He led Wake Forest with 16 points. Hicks added 14.

"That spurt they had in the second half just buried us," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "Once we got down, we couldn't come back, and I give Duke credit for that."

At the start, it didn't look like Wake Forest had a chance.

After being forced into a slow-paced game in a quarterfinal win over North Carolina, the Blue Devils came out strong Saturday. Duhon and Dunleavy connected on 3-pointers in an opening stretch that gave Duke a 10-2 lead before two minutes had come off the clock.

Wake Forest burned some timeouts to stop the barrage, to no avail. Duke hit its first nine shots of the game and 10 of 11 while racing out to a 27-7 lead less than seven minutes in.

"Because of the game against North Carolina, we were excited to play more traditional basketball," said Dunleavy, who made all six of his shots in the first half, including four 3-pointers.

"So we came out pretty fired up and with a lot of energy."

After Boozer put Duke up by 20 with a dunk, Dawson stomped his foot on the court and screamed an obscenity. Then he went to work, cutting into Duke's lead by sparking the rally with two 3-pointers.

Josh Howard added a pair of dunks, and Hicks closed the half with a pair of driving layups to cut Duke's lead to 39-34 at the break.

"It doesn't help to go down 27-7 at the start, but I was proud of the way our kids battled back," Prosser said. "We came back and had it at one, but we never could take the lead."


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