March 13, 2005
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – They came in as underdogs, a No. 3 seed that was supposed to have too little depth to compete against the new powerhouse teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
When the final buzzer sounded at the 52nd ACC tournament on Sunday, the Duke Blue Devils celebrated a 69-64 victory over Georgia Tech and reclaimed their customary perch as league champions.
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 the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets.
Duke has 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.
Duke (25-5) led by four points early in the second half before Redick hit a jumper, Williams scored on a dunk, Redick made a layup and Daniel 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 didn’t make another basket until Williams tipped in a missed foul shot just before the buzzer.
Duke, which never trailed, went 15-for-20 at the free throw line over the final 9 minutes.
The Yellow Jackets (19-11) used an 8-0 run to close to 56-51 with 4:56 left. A 3-pointer by Tech’s 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 clinch it.
Minutes later, the Blue Devils cut down the nets at the MCI Center, where the tournament was held for the first time.
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.
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.
The Blue Devils have won 19 of 20 against the Yellow Jackets, including three this season.
The Duke dynasty took a hit last year, and after second-ranked North Carolina won the regular season title and the Blue Devils finished third 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.
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.
The Yellow Jackets missed 15 of their first 17 shots, yet played well enough on the other end to stay within striking distance. Duke made its first three field goal tries before enduring a 1-for-8 stretch, and with 11:41 left in the first half the score was 8-4.
Following the second TV timeout, Ewing hit a jumper – the game’s first points in nearly 5 minutes.