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Duke 81, Indiana 78

By TOM WITHERS UPI Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twenty minutes from elimination, the Duke Blue Devils showed why they are one win from their official coronation as a dynasty.

'Coach always gives us a little time at halftime alone and all we talked about is that we weren't working as hard as Indiana,' said Blue Devils point guard Bobby Hurley. 'That's usually what we do best, work harder than the other team.'

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Hurley matched a career high with 26 points and the Blue Devils moved a step closer to their second straight NCAA title Saturday night, holding off a furious Indiana rally to down the Hoosiers, 81-78.

'We feel lucky,' Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. Then, he paused for a moment and said:

'Very lucky.'

The Blue Devils, 33-2, will attempt to become the first team since the 1973 UCLA Bruins to win consecutive titles Monday night when they face the Michigan Wolverines in the championship game. It will be Duke's third straight appearance in the final.

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Michigan advanced to the final with a 76-72 victory over Cincinnati.

Hurley made six of his nine 3-point tries to pace Duke, which received just eight points from All-American center Christian Laettner. Laettner had scored in double figures in 46 straight games. Grant Hill scored 14 points before fouling out and freshmen center Cherokee Parks added eight points in nine valuable minutes for Duke.

'The focal point of our defense was to stop him (Laettner) first,' said Indiana's Eric Anderson. 'Bobby Hurley was just on fire.'

Indiana, which finished the year 27-7, was paced by Greg Graham's 18 points. Alan Henderson added 15 and Calbert Cheaney had 11.

Despite holding a sizable rebounding advantage (41-30), Indiana was whistled for 33 personal fouls compared with 18 for Duke. The Blue Devils shot 42 free throws to Indiana's 16.

Trailing by five at the half, the Blue Devils, aided by a technical foul against Indiana Coach Bob Knight, opened the second half with a 13- 0 run to take a 50-42 lead with 14:24 to play on a Brian Davis free throw.

Knight, enraged over three straight fouls called against the Hoosiers, was slapped with the technical with 18:06 left by referee Ted Valentine.

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'The official told Cheaney it was for the bench jumping up,' said Knight. 'That was the first and only time in my life that I have ever been assessed a technical because the bench jumped up.'

'I don't think that had anything to do with it. Things were already going bad,' said the Hoosiers' Eric Anderson. 'Sometimes when coach gets a technical it fires us up. We were trying to feed off that.'

Duke, though, was the one doing the feeding. Hurley's 3-pointer -- his fifth of the game -- with 16:49 remaining gave Duke a 48-42 lead and as the Hoosiers continued to misfire, the Blue Devils extended their lead.

Indiana missed its first seven shots of the half and didn't get on the board until 13:46 remained on Graham's 3-pointer, which cut Duke's lead to 50-45.

But Duke reeled off eight straight points to gain control. The spurt was capped by Parks' dunk off a pass from Hill. Bailey committed his fifth personal foul on the play and with his outside shooting removed from the game, Indiana was in deep trouble.

Indiana made only one of its first 11 shots from the field in the half and just 12 for 29 in the half.

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'The main thing was in the second half, they came out and played good. They came out really ready to play and our intensity really dissipated,' Meeks said.

Hurley's sixth 3-pointer with 7:46 to go seemed to put Indiana away, but the Hoosiers got two straight buckets to pull within 63-55 with 5:53 left and when Henderson hit two free throws with 3:15 to play, Indiana was within 65-57.

The Blue Devils spread the floor, forcing the Hoosiers to chase and foul, but Hill missed two free throws, keeping Indiana in the game.

Hill did follow a Hurley miss and after baskets by Graham and Henderson trimmed Duke's lead to 67-61, Hill sank two free throws to push the lead back to eight.

Greg Graham was fouled attempting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws before Marty Clark and Hurley made two free throws each for Duke.

Sophomore reserve Todd Leary came off the bench and drilled three 3- pointers in 27 seconds and Indiana was within 77-73 with 26 seconds left.

'I am not sure that I have seen a kid under more difficult circumstances come in and light a match that became an explosion,' Knight said of Leary.

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The Hoosiers called timeout and immediately fouled Clark on the inbounds. Clark made one of two free throws with 24 seconds left, but Laettner fouled Nover on the miss and Nover hit both free throws to make it 78-75.

On the inbounds, Hurley stepped on the baseline and Duke was forced to call time.

Indiana worked the ball to Meeks, whose corner jumper was short and Duke controlled the rebound.

'I wasn't expecting it to come right away. I didn't get my feet set like I wanted to,' said Meeks. It just fell short.'

Antonio Lang was fouled and made both free throws before Matt Nover came back and knocked down a 3-pointer for Indiana with seven seconds to play.

Laettner, not risking a short inbounds pass, lofted the ball high at mid-court to Parks, who was fouled and made the first of two free throws with one-tenth of a second left.

Eric Anderson's desperation heave at the buzzer fell way short and Duke could relax until Monday night.

The Hoosiers shot 17 of 29 (59 percent) and limited Laettner to just four points for a 42-37 halftime lead.

Indiana's agressive man-to-man defense forced the Blue Devils to the perimeter and only Hurley's 3-point shooting prevented Indiana from blowing the game open in the first half.

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Indiana which arrived at the Final Four on the strength of 56 percent from the floor, made 12 of its first 14 shots, including eight straight in a six-minute stretch, to take a 27-19 lead with 10:15 to play before halftime.

Henderson, whose emergence in the tournament has been a key in the Hoosiers' tournament run, made his first three shots. His 3-pointer from the corner with 15:12 remaining was his first this season.

Indiana eventually cooled off and missed eight straight shots over the next 5:15, but the Blue Devils couldn't take advantage.

Laettner, who didn't miss a field goal or free throw in the East Regional final classic against Kentucky, made only one of six field-goal attempts in the half and was double-teamed when he received the ball in the post.

'I had the shots taken away from me and their defense didn't allow me to get many shots,' said Laettner. 'I personally have to put this behind me and get ready for Michigan.'

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