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No. 1 Duke escapes upset-minded Fighting Irish

The Associated Press

GREENVILLE, S.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

GREENVILLE, S.C.

— Jason Williams has been a liability at times on free throws. The All-American guard didn’t blink under NCAA tournament pressure Saturday.

Williams, just 5-for-18 from the field, sank four straight from the foul line down the stretch as top-seeded and defending national champion Duke rallied for an 84-77 second-round victory over Notre Dame in the South Regional.

"I would rather have people who shoot free throws than people who don’t want the ball," said Mike Krzyzewski, who improved to 58-14 in the NCAAs. "Jason has wanted the ball his whole career at Duke and he will keep getting it as long as his career keeps lasting."

Williams is a 67 percent free-throw shooter, and one of the lowlights came in Duke’s first loss of the season, against Florida State on Jan. 6. In that game, Williams missed six straight free throws in the final 5 1/2 minutes.

He sank the go-ahead free throws with 1:04 left as the Blue Devils (31-3) advanced to the round of 16 for the fifth straight year and 18th time overall.

Daniel Ewing, a freshman, came through against Notre Dame with a career-high 18 points and six rebounds.

Eighth-seeded Notre Dame (22-11) got 20 points each from David Graves and Matt Carroll, but the Irish folded down the stretch. Their coach, former Duke assistant Mike Brey, couldn’t pull off the program’s 10th victory over a No. 1-ranked team.

Notre Dame led 71-64 with about 6 minutes left, but was outscored 20-6 the rest of the way.

"When they were down seven and their life was flashing before their eyes, (Duke) really locked in on defense," Brey said.

Duke sank 11 of 12 free throws over the final 1:47.