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UCONN CAN! HUSKIES STUN DUKE FOR TITLE : UCONN 77, DUKE 74.

Byline: Jon Wilner Daily News Staff Writer

The pursuit of history ended here Monday night with a brilliant collision, leaving a state in ecstasy and the nation's No. 1 team without the crown required to validate its dominance.

In a frantic, fabulous 40 minutes, Connecticut did what few thought possible and no one had done in four months: It stopped the Duke machine with an airtight game plan, smothering defense and a little help from a guy named Rip.

Behind 27 points from All-American Richard ``Rip'' Hamilton, the Huskies won their first national title - and wrote the greatest chapter in the state's sporting history - with a marvelous 77-74 victory over Duke before 41,340 at Tropicana Field.

``This was one of the greatest games I've ever been involved with,'' Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. ``The kids were saying they wanted Duke instead of Michigan State. I said maybe the wiser head knows better. But the kids knew better.''

The buzzer sounded with Blue Devils senior guard Trajan Langdon (25 points) sprawled on the court; his last-gasp, full-court charge had ended with a turnover. Calhoun, whose decision to play Duke at warp speed worked to perfection, embraced his assistants and then hugged Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Scheduled for hip replacement surgery next week, Krzyzewski then left the court with a stern expression - one he had seen before. Eight years ago today, Duke stunned supposedly unbeatable Nevada-Las Vegas in an equally riveting Final Four duel in Indianapolis. Once again, a team that couldn't be beaten had fallen one game short of securing its place among the greatest.

``They were good, and we were good,'' Krzyzewski said. ``They did things better than we did at the end, and they won.''

Connecticut (34-2) not only avenged NCAA Tournament losses to Duke in 1990 and '91, it also refuted the critics who have shadowed Calhoun since his arrival in Storrs in 1986. He turned a nothing program into the Big East's best, yet substantiation did not arrive until late Monday night.

``We were 10-point underdogs, and we thought that was ridiculous,'' point guard Khalid El-Amin said. ``We wanted to prove everyone wrong.''

Realizing it was no match for Duke in a half-court game, Connecticut did whatever it could to generate pace. The Huskies opened the game with full-court pressure, swarmed Duke center Elton Brand (15 points), and pushed their fastbreak at every opportunity. They have a deep bench, superb athletes and players who thrive in open-court situations. It was the way they like to play, the only way they could play.

Instead of backing down from the Durham bully, the Huskies attacked. They spread Duke's defense and used their speed to slash into the lane. Senior guard Ricky Moore shed his reputation as a defensive specialist and scored nine of Connecticut's first 15 points, but the main man was Hamilton. He was too quick for Duke, and his jumper was right all night.

Hamilton hit 10 of 22 shots, then gave way to El-Amin, whose short jumper from the left side with 1:05 left gave Connecticut a 75-72 lead and proved to be the winning shot. Duke's best chance collapsed when Langdon, matched against Moore, traveled on his way through the lane with five seconds left.

``Absolutely, positively, I want Trajan to take that shot,'' Krzyzewski said. ``I'll win or lose with Trajan. I'll walk down any road with Trajan.''

The Huskies edged to a 36-32 lead late in the half when Langdon singlehandedly changed the momentum. He buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then drained a 3-pointer from the left wing as Moore fouled him. The rare four-point play gave Duke a narrow lead at halftime.

Langdon kept his rhythm through intermission and scored five quick points to open the second half. When William Avery found Brand for a dunk and Chris Carrawell did the same to Shane Battier, the Blue Devils had carved a 48-43 lead and seemed on the verge of a game-breaking surge.

But Connecticut reserve Albert Mouring slowed Duke's momentum with a 12-footer from the lane, and Connecticut scored on its next six possessions. The final basket was Mouring's, as he slashed the left baseline for a nifty layup that gave the Huskies a 57-53 lead. Their margin expanded to 65-59 on Hamilton's jumper from the left wing with nine minutes left.

Duke responded immediately. Brand blocked a Hamilton shot, then raced downcourt to receive Avery's pass for a layup. Two possessions later, Carrawell's mid-range jumper trimmed Connecticut's lead to 65-63, and he tied it with 4:50 remaining.

The final minutes were riveting, beginning with Hamilton's 3-pointer from the left wing that gave Connecticut a 73-68 lead. Two minutes later, Battier grabbed an improbable rebound and fed Langdon for a 3-pointer - right wing, 1:40 left - that brought Duke within one point.

BY THE NUMBERS

A statistical look at the NCAA championship game:

1: NCAA titles and Final Four appearances for Connecticut.

2-6: Duke's all-time record in championship games.

10-0: Connecticut's record this season when trailing at the half.

25.4: Duke's average margin of victory, tops in the nation this season.

32: Consecutive wins by the Blue Devils before Monday's loss to UConn.

41: Duke's shooting percentage in the final, its lowest this season.

145: MVP Richard Hamilton's point total in six tournament games.

LARGEST UPSETS

Biggest underdogs to win the NCAA championship since 1961, with point spread, year and score:

9-1/2: 1985, Villanova 66, Georgetown 64

9-1/2: 1999, Connecticut 77, Duke 74

8-1/2: 1983, North Carolina St. 54, Houston 52

8-1/2: 1988, Kansas 83, Oklahoma 73

8: 1961, Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 (OT)

7: 1997, Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT)

6-1/2: 1966, Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65

NCAA CHAMPIONS

1939: Oregon

1940: Indiana

1941: Wisconsin

1942: Stanford

1943: Wyoming

1944: Utah

1945: Oklahoma A&M

1946: Oklahoma A&M

1947: Holy Cross

1948: Kentucky

1949: Kentucky

1950: CCNY

1951: Kentucky

1952: Kansas

1953: Indiana

1954: La Salle

1955: San Francisco

1956: San Francisco

1957: North Carolina

1958: Kentucky

1959: California

1960: Ohio State

1961: Cincinnati

1962: Cincinnati

1963: Loyola, Ill.

1964: UCLA

1965: UCLA

1966: Texas Western

1967: UCLA

1968: UCLA

1969: UCLA

1970: UCLA

1971: UCLA

1972: UCLA

1973: UCLA

1974: North Carolina State

1975: UCLA

1976: Indiana

1977: Marquette

1978: Kentucky

1979: Michigan State

1980: Louisville

1981: Indiana

1982: North Carolina

1983: North Carolina State

1984: Georgetown

1985: Villanova

1986: Louisville

1987: Indiana

1988: Kansas

1989: Michigan

1990: UNLV

1991: Duke

1992: Duke

1993: North Carolina

1994: Arkansas

1995: UCLA

1996: Kentucky

1997: Arizona

1998: Kentucky

1999: Connecticut

TOURNAMENT MVPs

1939 - None selected

1940 - Marvin Huffman, Indiana

1941 - John Kotz, Wisconsin

1942 - Howie Dallmar, Stanford

1943 - Ken Sailors, Wyoming

1944 - Arnold Ferrin, Utah

1945 - Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M

1946 - Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M

1947 - George Kaftan, Holy Cross

1948 - Alex Groza, Kentucky

1949 - Alex Groza, Kentucky

1950 - Irwin Dambrot, CCNY

1951 - None selected

1952 - Clyde Lovellette, Kansas

1953 - B.H. Born, Kansas

1954 - Tom Gola, La Salle

1955 - Bill Russell, San Francisco

1956 - Hal Lear, Temple

1957 - Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas

1958 - Elgin Baylor, Seattle

1959 - Jerry West, West Virginia

1960 - Jerry Lucas, Ohio State

1961 - Jerry Lucas, Ohio State

1962 - Paul Hogue, Cincinnati

1963 - Art Heyman, Duke

1964 - Walt Hazzard, UCLA

1965 - Bill Bradley, Princeton

1966 - Jerry Chambers, Utah

1967 - Lew Alcindor, UCLA

1968 - Lew Alcindor, UCLA

1969 - Lew Alcindor, UCLA

1970 - Sidney Wicks, UCLA

1971 - (x) Howard Porter, Villanova

1972 - Bill Walton, UCLA

1973 - Bill Walton, UCLA

1974 - David Thompson, North Carolina State

1975 - Richard Washington, UCLA

1976 - Kent Benson, Indiana

1977 - Butch Lee, Marquette

1978 - Jack Givens, Kentucky

1979 - Earvin Johnson, Michigan State

1980 - Darrell Griffith, Louisville

1981 - Isiah Thomas, Indiana

1982 - James Worthy, North Carolina

1983 - Akeem Olajuwon, Houston

1984 - Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

1985 - Ed Pinckney, Villanova

1986 - Pervis Ellison, Louisville

1987 - Keith Smart, Indiana

1988 - Danny Manning, Kansas

1989 - Glen Rice, Michigan

1990 - Anderson Hunt, UNLV

1991 - Christian Laettner, Duke

1992 - Bobby Hurley, Duke

1993 - Donald Williams, North Carolina

1994 - Corliss Williamson, Arkansas

1995 - Ed O'Bannon, UCLA

1996 - Tony Delk, Kentucky

1997 - Miles Simon, Arizona

1998 - Jeff Sheppard, Kentucky

1999 - Richard Hamilton, Connecticut

(x) - subsequently ruled ineligible

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, Box

PHOTO (1--Color) Connecticut's Khalid El-Amin, whose short jumper with 1:05 left proved to be the winning shot, leaps into the arms of teammate Jake Voskuhl.

Eric Draper/Associated Press

(2) Khalid El-Amin, right, and Rashamel Jones savor UConn's victory. ``We wanted to prove everyone wrong,'' El-Amin said.

Ed Reinke/Associated Press

(3--Color) no caption (Connecticut Coach Jim Calhounn)

Ed Reinke/Associated Press

BOX: LARGEST UPSETS (see text)
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 30, 1999
Words:1442
Previous Article:NCAA FINAL FOUR NOTEBOOK: HUSKIES CAN THANK THEIR STARS.
Next Article:DAILY NEWS GIRLS' BASKETBALL ALL-AREA TEAM : PLAYER OF THE YEAR.


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