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LAETTNER'S HEROICS LIFT DUKE

Christian Laettner hit a miracle turnaround jumper from near the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give defending champion Duke a 104-103 overtime victory over Kentucky and a fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four.

The Blue Devils (32-2), who blew a 10-point lead with 7:40 to play, missed a chance to win in regulation when Bobby Hurley missed a runner and then beat Kentucky on Laettner's shot. Grant Hill made a length-of-the court pass to Laettner with 2.1 seconds to play, and the basket marked the fifth - and last - lead change in the final 30 seconds.Duke will play Indiana, which beat UCLA 106-79 Saturday, and it gets there despite a rare loss of poise in the closing minutes of regulation.

It was the second time Laettner had sent Duke to the Final Four with a buzzer-beater. In 1990, his 17-foot jumper beat Connecticut 79-78 in overtime in the East Regional final.

This time, he grabbed Hill's pass, dribbled once while pivoting away from Kentucky's Deron Feldhaus, and launched a shot that swished through as the buzzer sounded.

The shot was a perfect ending to a perfect shooting game for Laettner, who was 10 of 10 from the field and 10 of 10 from the foul line, and scored 31 points.

"I can't believe it happened to me twice in a career," Laettner yelled as he was pounded by teammates and fans.

"We beat a very determined and great basketball team," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It was an unbelievable game where kids made great plays."

Top-ranked Duke kept alive its bid to become the first repeat champion since UCLA in 1973, and ended Kentucky's dream return from two years' probation and a three-year absence from the tournament it has appeared in more than any other school.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats (29-7) had taken a 103-102 lead with 2.5 seconds left when Sean Woods hit a one-handed bank shot over Laettner in the lane. Duke called timeout instantly and the Blue Devils needed every tick.

Laettner and senior Brian Davis have made the Final Four each of their four seasons, a feat accomplished only by their teammate of last season, Greg Koubek.

Duke had looked to be taking Easy Street to Minneapolis when the Blue Devils took a 79-69 lead with 7:40 left on - what else? - two free throws by Laettner.

Things unraveled quickly, however, for the team that never gets rattled.

Laettner had been assessed a technical foul just 26 seconds earlier for stepping on the chest of Aminu Timberlake when the Kentucky freshman had submarined the All-American on a drive to the basket.

Kentucky turned on its vaunted press, which it had avoided most of the night in favor of a 2-3 zone, and it created turnovers just as it had all season.

The Wildcats went on a 12-2 run over the next 2:01 and suddenly thoughts of great upsets filled the heads of everyone in the Spectrum.

Woods hit a 3-pointer with 5:28 left to tie the game 81-81 and neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.

The intensity was there even if the style of play people have come to expect of Duke wasn't.

Feldhaus, one of four Kentucky seniors who stayed in the program rather than leave when the probation was announced, tied the game 93-93 with 38 seconds left in regulation on a rebound.

Duke ran the clock down without calling a timeout, but Bobby Hurley's jumper with four seconds left missed. Kentucky had a final chance with .8 seconds to play, but the ball was tipped out of bounds.

Kentucky took the lead in the overtime on a 3-pointer by John Pelphrey and Hurley answered for a 96-96 tie with 2:42 to play.

Pelphrey scored in the lane for yet another lead only to have Laettner make two free throws with 1:53 left.

Laettner gave Duke a 100-98 lead with a nice turnaround with 32 seconds left and Kentucky took the lead on a three-point play by Jamal Mashburn with 19 seconds left.

Hurley finished with 22 points and 10 assists for Duke, while Thomas Hill had 19 points.

Mashburn finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats and Woods had 21 points and nine assists.

Duke was in the almost unheard of position of trailing big early. Gimel Martinez's 3-pointer 5:41 into the game gave the Wildcats a 20-12 lead.

Duke then came up with the kind of run coaches can only dream of. In 46 seconds, the game was tied.

Grant Hill converted a rebound with 13:44 to play in the half. Thomas Hill then followed a steal by Laettner with a 3-pointer 33 seconds later. After a missed shot by Travis Ford, Grant Hill took a pass from Hurley on the break and converted a three-point play that tied it 20-20 with 12:58 left in the half.

Kentucky had one more lead, 22-20 after a follow by Mashburn, but Hurley hit a 3-pointer with 11:57 left and Duke had the lead for the rest of the half.

Laettner's 10th point gave him 359 for his NCAA tournament career, one more than Elvin Hayes scored in 13 games from 1966-68. Laettner got his record in 21 games and now he'll get a 22nd.