WASHINGTON -- After Friday's win over Virginia, J.J. Redick said it was tough adjusting to the rims at the MCI Center. Saturday he seemed to have it all figured out. Duke's top option hit 11-of-16 shots and scored 35 points, never disappearing from the offense. A day after he went just 4-for-17 from the field and had to rely on others to carry the load, Redick was there every time N.C. State tried to make a run. "I didn't dwell on it last night," Redick said. "I put it behind me, and went out there today and played with confidence." The third-seeded Blue Devils advanced to their eighth consecutive ACC Tournament final with a 76-69 victory Saturday. Will Bynum equaled Redick's 35 points as Georgia Tech knocked off North Carolina earlier in the afternoon despite a late charge by Rashad McCants that almost saw the Tar Heels pull off their second comeback in as many days.
The two Final Four teams from a year ago will play for the championship Sunday at 1 p.m. when Duke will have its sixth ACC title in seven years and potentially a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line.
"We expect to be here. We expect to win championships," said Daniel Ewing, who scored 14 points and marked N.C. State's Julius Hodge for most of the game. "That is what this program is about. Whether it is the ACC Tournament Championship, regular season championship, or NCAA Championship, it's our expectation and we try to meet that every year." The Wolfpack held an eight-point lead before Lee Melchionni, Reggie Love and David McClure came off the bench minutes into the second half to give Duke an energy and rebounding boost. "We didn't have best intensity on defense," Redick said. "The turning point in the game was when Reggie and David came in. Other guys fed off their energy. When Daniel and I started hitting big shots everybody stepped up." Still, fifth-ranked Duke (24-5) kept giving N.C. State (19-13) chances to get back into the game, missing 7-of-9 free throws in the second half and fumbling several opportunities to put the Wolfpack away. Duke began to crash the boards after halftime, ending the game with an edge on the glass after being outrebounded by 10 before the break. Many of Duke's best looks came on second and third opportunities as players like DeMarcus Nelson, who played 24 minutes, corralled the ball around the hoop and pitched it out to the team's shooters. "The sets we were running in motion during the second half put our big guys by the boards and gave the third perimeter guy a run," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We had three guys on the boards. It gave some open looks to J.J. and Daniel." While Ewing limited Hodge to 11 points, seven of which came in the final 3:09 when the outcome was all but decided, none of the four different defenders Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek tried to put on Redick could shut him down. "We were working really hard," Sendek said. "None of those shots came with us having our legs crossed and our arms behind our head. We were giving great effort, and to his credit he always gives great effort as well. He's always moving and they set a lot of screens for him. He needs almost no time or space to get a shot off." Even though Redick scored 14, the Blue Devils could not shake off N.C. State in the first half. Ilian Evtimov and Engin Atsur each hit a three-pointer in the first 90 seconds of the second half, giving the Wolfpack its biggest lead of the game. Krzyzewski responded, calling a timeout and subbing in the three players off the bench. Redick then hit a pair of jumpers and a three to close the margin, and several minutes later Ewing gave Duke the lead for good with a three-pointer of his own. With the game close and the Blue Devils out of foul trouble, Krzyzewski did not have the luxury or the reason to rest his players, even with the team's third game in less than 48 hours looming Sunday. Duke faces an athletic and deeper Georgia Tech team that runs up and down the court while playing some of the best defense in the conference.
"We're in great shape," Redick said. "I think we're in better shape than any team in the conference. We're not the deepest team, but we have guys that are playing a lot of minutes, because we are in great shape."
The Blue Devils beat the Yellow Jackets twice this season, but both times Georgia Tech star guard B.J. Elder was either missing or not at full strength.