Steve Fisher and Mike Krzyzewski shake hands before the game.
Grant Hill guarded by Chris Webber and Jalen Rose
Grant Hill dribbles against James Voskuil.
Jalen Rose tries to dribble past
Grant Hill guards Rose.
Juwan Howard tries to drive.
Grant Hill scores in the last minute.
Laettner helps cut down the net.
The Fab Five - VI
There was no doubt in the Michigan players' minds that they would defeat Duke and win the national championship.
- It was their destiny, wasn't it?
- They had beaten every other team that had beaten them - Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State (which won twice in the regular season but fell in the Regional Final), Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
- The Blue Devils had won 88-85 in OT December 14, and the Wolverines were much better now.
The press couldn't have asked for a better matchup for the finals.
- The December game had drawn huge ratings before the "Fab Five" had become a household phrase.
- The media played up the contrast in styles between the brash UM freshman and the staid Duke veterans.
Dennis Brackin of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Tribune summarized the game taking place at the Metrodome.
Could there be a more fitting ending to the college basketball season? Duke-Michigan II for the NCAA title Monday night. The reigning champs against the apparent heirs to the throne. ... This is the rematch Michigan's players have been praying for, hoping for. This is the rematch Duke probably has anticipated all season long.
Doubt it, you say? Recall the words of Duke's Grant Hill after that December meeting.
"These guys are better than Vegas," Hill said, comparing Michigan's Fab Five to the UNLV that Duke defeated in last year's NCAA tournament. "They're more athletic and they're bigger. Vegas had five good players. Michigan goes seven or eight deep and they seem to enjoy playing together. ...
Duke will be attempting to become the first team to win back-to-back national titles since UCLA did in 1973. That was the year most members of Michigan's Fab Five ... were born. The five generally are acclaimed to be the greatest freshman class in college basketball history.
Michigan came into the game healthy, but the Blue Devils had some problems.
- Starting F Brian Davis was questionable with a high-ankle sprain, and sixth-man Grant Hill would be playing with a bruised knee.
- Both injuries were sustained in the semifinal victory over Indiana, Duke's 12th straight win to move their record to 33-2.
- But Michigan suffered a setback Sunday when Juwan Howard came down with a touch of the flu and stayed in bed while the other four starters went to the press conference. The 6'9" C played but not that well.
50,379 jammed the Metrodome, and a worldwide audience estimated at one billion watched on TV.
- Those watching closely noticed something different about the Fab Five as they were introduced. Only Jalen Rose smiled and, even then, it wasn't his usual wicked smile. There was no attitude, no cockiness, no fire.
- Coach K told his players, No talking to Michigan. They say something, you ignore it. He needn't have bothered. The Fab Five was feeling the pressure.
- When Chris Webber stepped into the circle for the opening tip, he came face-to-face with senior Christian Laettner, the player he hated more than any other star in college basketball, the guy he wanted to beat so badly because he epitomized Duke's "We're better than you" attitude.
The story of the first half was Laettner's poor play.
- On Duke's first possession, he dribbled the ball off his leg. Then he clanged a jumper from the top of the key before making a weak pass across the lane that Webber grabbed. A little later, Christian traveled as he tried to drive.
What the hell's wrong with Christian? asked Krzyzewski on the Duke sideline. He's playing like he's asleep!
- But Michigan couldn't take advantage since they had trouble finding a rhythm themselves. Howard, nowhere near 100%, drew a foul but missed both free throws. After nearly five minutes, the score read 5-5.
- By the middle of the half, Laettner had four turnovers and took a seat next to Coach K, replaced by Cherokee Parks.
- After a little over five minutes of play, Webber committed his second foul and was replaced by Eric Riley, who quickly scored on a jumper over Laettner, who had returned after a brief rest.
During a TV timeout, Fisher told his guys, Relax out there. Play the game you know how to play.
Rose drives as Laettner, Hurley, and Thomas Hill watch.
- Davis entered the game after not starting for the first time all year but lasted only a few minutes. Then Laettner committed his fifth turnover, Rose intercepting and going the length of the court for a layup. Less than a minute later, Chris sank his first basket on a drive. But he soon threw the ball away again, leading to another UM breakaway goal to go up 14-10.
- But five in a row gave Duke the lead again as the sloppy game continued, the teams trading turnovers. Laettner was so frustrated that he didn't even run down the court when Michigan got a rebound and scored on the other end to lead 22-21.
K pulled his star and berated him. You stood there! You didn't even run!
- Michigan retook the lead at 24-22 on Webber's behind-the-back pass to Rob Palinka on a fast break and didn't relinquish it until under two minutes remained in the half when Laettner finally scored from the low post to make 30-29. But a spinning move by Rose down the lane put UM back in front at the half 31-20.
- The teams had combined for 22 turnovers, 12 by Duke.
Fisher at halftime: Stay strong. You can do this. They'll make a run at us, but we can withstand it.
In the other locker room, Krzyzewski gave Laettner a tongue-lashing. You just played the worst half of your life. ... You suck! K banged a blackboard so hard he knocked it over.
L: Bobby Hurley dribbles away from Webber and Jimmy King.
R: Thomas Hill guards Rose.
The story of the second half was Laettner
playing like the Naismith Player of the Year.
- He scored the first basket of the half underneath to put Duke in front. But Howard answered to make it 33-32 Michigan. Little did anyone know that the Wolverines would not lead again after Laettner drained a 3-pointer that told the world, "The real me is back."
- But they stayed close despite key players getting into foul trouble. Rose picked up his 3rd foul with Duke leading 38-35. Soon after, Webber committed his 3rd and was replaced by Rose, whom Fisher trusted more to avoid further foul trouble. After a brief rest, Chris reentered and scored underneath to make it 41-39 Duke.
- But the Blue Devil defense made it more and more difficult for Michigan to score, conceding no easy shots. That allowed the Devils to build a 46-39 lead with under 11 minutes to go in what CBS commentator Billy Packer called "not a pretty game at all." During that stretch, Rose fouled for the fourth time but came back shortly afterward and never did foul out.
- Consecutive baskets by James Voskuil, again contributing quality minutes off the bench, and Webber cut the lead to 46-43. Soon it was 48-45 with 6:51 on the clock. But UM would tally only six more points the rest of the way.
- Bouncing back from his miserable first half, Laettner had 14 points and 0 turnovers the final 20 minutes.
- Duke led 54-47 with under four minutes to go when Fisher called for a full court press. But the move backfired as the Devils broke it freely and got numerous easy buckets the rest of the way.
When he came out with the issue decided, Webber buried his face in a towel, sobbing. Fisher told him, Be proud. Stay strong. we have nothing to be ashamed of.
- Reserves flooded the floor in the last minute as the Blue Devils defended their championship going away, 71-51.
Duke scored on their last 12 possessions of the game. When the game ended, Bobby Hurley donned a shirt that read on the front, You can talk the game, but can you play the game? On the back it read, Duke. We can play the game.
Webber cursed reporters in the hallway on the way to the locker room after the game. Get those cameras outa my face,. ... That's what you want to see is a m*****f****** cry? This is a man here. This is a man!
- Webber led UM with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
- Rose was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 11.
- Laettner (19), Grant Hill (18), and Thomas Hill (16) provided a devastating 1-2-3 punch for Duke with Grant topping the list in rebounds with 10.
- Fisher: We're crushed, and we should be, but it's what Duke did more than what we didn't do. We needed a spectacular game, and we didn't have it in us. ... The second half, we had no semblance of order on offense. And I think it was as much their defense as anything. We unraveled with some bad shots, and you can't do that against a good team.
- Webber faced the press shortly after his hallway outburst. Of course, I'm upset because we could have won the game as easy as we lost it. We had a great season.
- Krzyzewski: We played terrific defense in the second half. Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill had great games. That was Christian's worst half of the year. He was not himself. Seven turnovers in the first half - are you kidding me? And he was throwing up bricks. And we were only one down. We knew if we could turn up the emotion, we could get going. Our defense in the second half was the story.
- Grant Hill was asked what Coach K told the team at halftime. Coach just challenged us at halftime to play better. We just tried to come and play hard. Michigan played hard. I'm just so happy we came through in the stretch.
The Wolverines would reach the finals again the following year but lose to another ACC powerhouse, North Carolina, in a much closer game, 77-71
Reference: Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, the American Dream, Mitch Albom (1993)