Devils Claim NIT Title With Big Win

Heading into Friday night's championship round of the NIT Season Tip-Off it could be argued that Duke had yet to be tested against the nation's elite. Memphis provided that test and the Blue Devils responded behind the stellar play of tournament MVP Shelden Williams and freshman point guard Greg Paulus.

Shelden Williams tied his career high with 30 points to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks to help propel Duke to its third preseason NIT title with a 70-67 victory over No. 11 Memphis.

Championship number three didn't come easy though. Memphis exploited their athleticism advantage in a big way behind super freshman Shawne Williams who tallied a team high 15 points. However Williams' biggest shot, a desperation three at the buzzer hit the front side of the rim, giving the Blue Devils the victory.

While one senior All-American was unstoppable, another was contained beautifully by the Tigers after halftime. J.J. Redick scored 15 first half points, but was held to just one field goal attempt and no points after intermission thanks to the defensive effort of Memphis senior Rodney Carney.

Without Redick's usual scoring output, Duke looked elsewhere for big plays and found them in their two dynamic freshman starters Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus. McRoberts tallied 12 points and four rebounds before fouling out with just over four minutes remaining, but it was Paulus who stole the show. Playing in front of his home crowd, the New York native scored just five points but handed out eight assists to go along with seven rebounds.

"Greg was a veteran tonight," said Williams. "He and Josh both played like they belong at this level."

After falling behind by seven early, Duke rallied to take a one point halftime lead, 41-40. Despite several Memphis spurts, the Tigers were never able to snatch the lead away from the Blue Devils in the second half.

It seemed as though Duke was going to coast to the win after Paulus hit a pair of free throws to make it 64-57 with just over five minutes left. Memphis then went on a 6-0 run capped by a layup by Darius Washington to cut the lead to one with 3:11 to go.

Then it was time for Duke to come up with a big play and it came from senior Sean Dockery who knocked down a wide open look from the left corner to extend the lead to 67-63.

However, the Tigers would come back two minutes later when Shawne Williams drove and drew Shelden Williams' fourth foul before converting the layup. The talented freshman would hit the free throw to tie the game with 1:07 remaining.

Duke would head down court with Dockery driving down the right side to the basket. The senior guard would miss the lay-up before Williams would tip the rebound in to make it 69-67. Then after a Washington miss, Lee Melchionni rebounded and was fouled. However he missed both free throw attempts with 11 seconds left.

Luckily for Melchionni, Dockery got the rebound but missed the first and then hit the second to cap the scoring before Williams' shot bounced off the rim.

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