He looks like he should be asking you if you want paper or plastic. He weighs 160 pounds and is listed as six feet tall, although that's about an inch too generous. His nickname isn't "Assassin," it's "Bobby."

Robert Hurley does not look much like a basketball tough guy. He doesn't swagger onto the courtwith a day-old growth of beard because he has no beard. He's never dunked a ball in his life, except for once when the rim was too low. He'll turn 20 in a couple of months and still won't look a day over 16. He makes John Stockton look menacing.

And yet, line up the UNLV basketball team and ask them why Duke is playing against Kansas in tonight's NCAA championship game, instead of the Rebels, and they would spit out the words, "Bobby Hurley."

It was Hurley who scored 12 points, including three big three-pointers, against the heavily favored Rebels in Saturday's 79-77 Duke upset. It was Hurley who had a game-high seven assists and two steals, and it was Hurley who tackled Vegas guard Anderson Hunt on a breakaway layup in the second half, denying the dunk, distracting the Rebels and almost inciting a brawl.

"I wanted them to know they were in a fight," said Hurley.

Vegas was shocked double by Hurley's feistiness. Not only did he look like the kid who bags your groceries, but in last year's NCAA final, when UNLV battered Duke 103-73, Hurley had two points and five turnovers and had to leave the game to go to the restroom.

He didn't go anywhere in Saturday's rematch, except for the jugular. He played the full 40 minutes, smearing his fingerprints all around, and afterward said the sequel was, personally speaking, a lot better than the original. He didn't have the flu this time, and Duke didn't lose, either.

"To tell you the truth, I felt so bad last year, I just couldn't go after it," said Hurley.

This year, he felt fine, which meant he was able to go after it, which meant he and Duke had a chance.

"If I'm not a fighter, I'm an ordinary player," he said. "I'm only good when I maintain the hunger for the game I grew up with."

Hurley grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan. He went to a parochial high school, St. Anthony's, where his father, Bob Hurley Sr., is the basketball coach, but he was raised on the streets. "It wasn't the suburbs," he said. "I played basketball in the projects playgrounds. Places where there are no refs, nobody to stop people from beating you up. You become tough playing there. You have to."

Hurley says it was easy to pick him out on the Jersey City playgrounds. He was the only white kid.

"They respected my game and let me stay and play," he said. "If you can play in that situation and get respect, you can go to just about any playground and play."

Playing at St. Anthony for his father - who is the most successful high school coach in New Jersey history - didn't hurt Hurley's development, either. In his last two seasons, St. Anthony went 52-1, and in his senior season won the New Jersey state title and was ranked No. 1 in America by USA Today.

Hurley might have gone to college at nearby Seton Hall (along with two of his St. Anthony teammates, Jerry Walker and Terry Dehere) but he took a recruiting visit to Duke and was swayed away. It was not the upper crust atmosphere and the green trees of Durham, N.C., that made Hurley want to leave Jersey, however. It was Coach Mike Krzyzewski's attitude about basketball.

"He really impressed me," said Hurley. "His approach to basketball impressed me."

Primarily Krzyzewski's approach is the same as Hurley's - a tough-guy attitude from a guy who doesn't look like a tough guy."Coach told us before the (UNLV) game," said Hurley, "if it's close at the end, if it's a two-point game, we're going to win. Because we're tougher down the stretch.

"I don't know if a lot of teams stood up to Vegas all year," he continued. "I think when we let them know it was going to be a 40-minute game, they felt the pressure. I love to play with guys who want to fight and play tough and high five and hug and all of that."

He said he'd also love to "come down on the fastbreak just one time and dunk it, really throw it down - still, I'm happy with the kind of player I am."

If you're 5-11 and 160 pounds, you can't play above the rim. But you can sometimes stop others from getting there. As was the case in Saturday's game when Hurley made his playground-style foul on UNLV's Hunt - a foul that stopped Hunt's layup and sent him instead to the free throw line, and a foul that caused UNLV's Larry Johnson to draw a technical for throwing an elbow in the aftermath.

The end result, after the free-throwing and a Duke possession was done, was a three-point Duke lead.

"I went for the ball . . . a little bit," said Hurley in explanation, meaning, in particular, the foul, and, in general, the game.