December 2, 1998
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
CHICAGO (AP) - Duke is no longer No. 1 and the Blue Devils are mad about it.
The now-No. 4 Blue Devils took it out on No. 9 Michigan State on Wednesday night, scoring the game's first 13 points and taking leads of 17 points three times in the opening nine minutes before holding on for a 73-67 victory in the Great Eight.
"That loss is always going to stick in the back of our heads," Duke guard William Avery said of the 77-75 loss to No. 6 Cincinnati in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout last Saturday.
"We wanted to come out and explode. I guess we have that anger inside of us thinking about that loss. Game by game we're going to get better and we wanted to start by coming out at the tap and dominating."
Duke's start couldn't have been much more impressive on both the offensive and defensive ends. The Blue Devils (6-1) scored the game's first 13 points and Michigan State had to call a timeout just 3:08 into the game.
Duke had a 17-point lead three times in the opening nine minutes, the last time at 26-9 on a turnaround jumper by Brand with 11:01 to play.
The Spartans (4-2), who missed eight of their first 10 shots and had six turnovers in the opening 7:50, picked up the defense and finally made some shots and were within 36-30 with 53 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Mateen Cleaves - just his second field goal of the game.
"I am disappointed with the start and I have no answer or explanation for it," Michigan State Tom Izzo said. "For some ungodly reason we didn't do the things we needed to do. What we could do wrong we did wrong for the first eight minutes. We just broke down and it's not that we were nervous, not that we weren't ready to play and it wasn't the Duke mystique. We just didn't play."
Michigan State did make a game of it. The Spartans trailed 56-47 with 11:41 left when they went on an 8-2 run to get within 58-55 on a rebound basket by Jason Klein with 6:12 to play.
Avery, the MVP of the Great Alaska Shootout, hit a 3-pointer a minute later that started a 6-0 run that gave the Blue Devils a 64-55 lead. The Spartans did get as close as five points twice the rest of the way, but the Blue Devils went 7-of-10 from the foul line over the final 90 seconds to seal the win.
"Coach has a lot of confidence in me and he kind of lets me pick my spots," Avery said of his only 3-pointer in three attempts.
Trajan Langdon had 17 of his 23 points in a perfect first half as he went 6-for-6 from the field, including four 3-pointers, as Duke shot 70 percent from the field (14-for-20). He finished 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
"Michigan State did a good job of locking me up in the second half," Langdon said. "They wore me out, but we did a good job of staying tough and coming out with the win."
Avery had 14 points and Chris Carrawell and Elton Brand added 12 each for the Blue Devils, whose coach doesn't think there is a No. 1 team.
"That No. 1 ranking is not anybody's," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "The No. 1 ranking is played for at the end of the year. We lost to Cincinnati but we didn't lose the No. 1 ranking. That's my feeling."
Michigan State junior Morris Peterson had a career-high in points for the second straight game, finishing with 24, three more than he had against Western Michigan.
"Duke took it to us in the first 10 minutes," said Peterson, who was 10-for-17 from the field, including making all four 3-pointers he took. "They took the fight to us in the beginning."
Preseason All-American Mateen Cleaves finished with nine points for the Spartans on 3-for-17 shooting.
"He's pressing with his shooting right now," Izzo said of the junior guard. "He was forced to take some tough shots in situations."
The Blue Devils have not lost consecutive games since early March 1997 and
have not lost two straight non-conference games since Dec. 6 and 9, 1989, when
they were beaten by Syracuse and Michigan.