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No. 1 Duke 99, Florida A&M 58

Posted March 11, 1999

— Duke treated its NCAA first-round game with Florida A&M more like a practice.

The prohibitive favorite to win the national title worked on a seldom-used zone defense and a big lineup, giving opponents down the road food for thought.

The Rattlers, on the other hand, worked on getting their pride back Friday night following a 99-58 loss to the top-seeded and top-ranked Blue Devils in the East Regional.

``At some point I'll be all right with this,'' said Florida A&M coach Mickey Clayton. ``It's like the pretty girl that you always liked and you wanted to ask her out for a date, it doesn't matter that she goes on later to be Miss America, she told you, `No.'''

Like most of the regular season, the Blue Devils (33-1) left little drama for the second half. Duke sank 11 of its first 14 shots en route to shooting 66 percent in the first half, extending its school-record winning streak to 28.

``We wanted to play hard and be relaxed and have fun playing,'' said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest active coach in the NCAA tournament at 44-12. ``We wanted to be like we have the entire year. I think we were successful in doing that.

``It's obvious that we have a lot more talent and should have won, but the fact is it's not always obvious that a team plays hard, and I thought our team did that.''

Elton Brand scored 17 points and William Avery 15 to lead the way for the surging Blue Devils.

In the first half, Duke went on runs of 23-0 and 16-0 to chalk up another lopsided victory, but once again without 3-point ace Trajan Langdon, who missed his third straight game with a foot injury.

Krzyzewski said Langdon would likely return for Sunday's second-round game.

The 16th-seeded Rattlers (12-19), the only squad in the field with a losing record, trailed only 17-13 in their first NCAA appearance.

The dream of playing the nation's dominant team quickly turned into a nightmare for Clayton and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, who were led by 23 points from Monroe Pippens.

``We played against the best basketball team assembled. It was an honor out there to play against them on the same court,'' said Kevin George, who along with his teammates went over and shook Krzyzewski's hand as they were introduced in pregame warmups.

Clayton was up on the bench early in the game barking signals and words of encouragement to his 45-point underdogs. By late in the first half he was slumped in his chair with head in hand, resigned to his team's fate.

``We lost to arguably the best basketball team in the country, and some say of all time,'' said Clayton. ``I don't want our players to put their heads down.''

Teams in the opening two games of the regional at the Charlotte Coliseum had blamed poor shooting on ``tight rims,'' but Duke had no problem from the outset, hitting five straight 3-pointers in the opening 7-1/2 minutes.

Avery, who scored 29 points in this building five days ago in the ACC title game against North Carolina, had eight points early to help ignite Duke's outside game.

That enabled Brand to wheel inside, getting 13 of his points in the first half as Duke dominated the glass 24-8.

The Rattlers went 17 straight possessions without a point and trailed 40-13. After an exchange of baskets, Duke went on its second run of the half, this time fueled by seldom-used Taymon Domzalski.

The senior scored 10 points during a four-minute span as Krzyzewski spent the final minutes of the half tinkering with different lineups.

The lead reached as many as 40 before Duke settled for a 59-20 intermission lead.

A team that almost never plays zone under Krzyzewski even experimented with a little 2-3 zone in the second half as Duke fell one point shy of its 10th 100-point game of the season.

Krzyzewski said he had little doubt his club would come ready to play - and impress.

``I had confidence in my team because of the way we play defense, we're more likely to come out aggressive,'' said Krzyzewski. ``I wasn't nervous, but you still like to see it.''


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