Delk Finds the Perfect Role: 3-Point King
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ On a night when Tony Delk tied a record for 3-pointers in the NCAA championship game, his most memorable play was a 4-pointer _ and the acting job that went along with it.
Delk, whose seven 3-pointers Monday equaled the mark set by Indiana’s Steve Alford in 1987, made his last shot from beyond the arc with Todd Burgan charging straight at him. Burgan arrived a split-second too late, and both players tumbled out of bounds into the Kentucky bench.
``He was just coming at me, and I was kind of falling away,″ Delk said. ``He just fell on top of me.″
But did Burgan actually touch Delk on the shot?
``I just kind of flopped down on the ground,″ Delk replied coyly. ``I take acting lessons, you know.″
While Delk was flopping, the ball he had released was plunging straight through the basket, a fatal blow to Syracuse’s chance of pulling a major upset. Kentucky went on to win 76-67, its first national championship since 1978.
``I had to fall down because that was a bad shot,″ Delk said with a smile. ``Coach (Rick Pitino) would have been mad at me if we didn’t score.″
Pitino, who had just explained that none of Kentucky’s 27 attempts from outside the 3-point arc was ill-timed, looked at his senior guard with mock surprise.
``I just said we took no bad shots,″ the coach said.
``That was the only one, coach,″ Delk shot back.
Delk’s 3-pointer and the free throw that followed capped a decisive 11-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 59-46 lead, their biggest of the game, with 11:12 remaining. Syracuse got back within 64-62, but never overtook the Wildcats.
``I thought that was a big shot,″ Delk said of the 4-point play. ``They had been making a run at us.″
Delk, who led Kentucky with 24 points and was named the outstanding player of the Final Four, began the season at the point but was shifted back to shooting guard after a loss to Massachusetts in the second game.
In the first half Monday, Delk showed why that was such a wise move. While the Wildcats made just three of their first 15 shots, he kept them in the game.
Delk was 6 of 7 on 3-pointers in the opening period, a potent weapon against Syracuse’s tightly packed 2-3 zone defense. Delk was right in the middle of a 19-8 spurt which ended the half, hitting three treys in the last 4:20 to send the Wildcats to the locker room with a 42-33 lead.
``We didn’t do a good job with Delk in the first half,″ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ``The second half, we found him and did a much better job with him.″
Delk made only 2 of 10 shots in the second half, but he already had done enough. Appropriately, he had the honor of scoring the Wildcats’ final basket on a layup with two seconds to go.
``I’m so happy, but it doesn’t seem like it’s over,″ said Delk, who wound up the fourth-leading scorer in Kentucky history with 1,890 points. ``It seems like we’ve got more games to play. We’ve worked so hard all year. I guess on the way home, it will sink in.″