Duke leaves Houston with Final Four berth
The NCAA Tournament selection committee got it right with Duke.
The Blue Devils are indeed one of the four best teams in the nation.
No. 1 seed Duke withstood a fierce challenge from No. 3 seed Baylor to capture a 78-71 victory in Sunday’s South Regional final before a crowd of 47,492 at Reliant Stadium and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2004.
The Blue Devils (33-5) are the only No. 1 seed to advance to the national semifinals. Baylor (28-8) fell one win short of reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1950.
Duke will continue in its quest to capture its first national title since 2001 when it meets East Regional champion and No. 2 seed West Virginia on Saturday in Indianapolis.
“We won an outstanding basketball game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Both teams played really well and really hard.”
Duke pulled out a win despite getting little offense from second-leading scorer Kyle Singler, who shot 0-for-10 from the field and finished with five points. Guard Nolan Smith scored a career-high 29 points, and guard Jon Scheyer finished with 20 to pick up the slack.
Guard LaceDarius Dunn led Baylor with 22 points. The Bears shot 45.8 percent, but gave up crucial offensive rebounds and 3-pointers en route to being outscored 17-10 in the final three and a half minutes.
Baylor led 59-57 before Smith hit a 3-pointer to put the Blue Devils ahead by one with 4:20 left. Bears forward Ekpe Udoh hit a jumper to give Baylor the lead back, but Smith was quickly fouled on the other end and awarded two free throws.
Smith tied the game at 61 by making the first attempt, but he missed the second. However, Duke forward Lance Thomas grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Smith, who stroked a trey to give the Blue Devils a 64-61 lead.
Scheyer dropped in another 3-pointer to put Duke ahead 67-61 with 2:38 left, and the Blue Devils pulled away from there.
“We have to give Duke credit,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They got big offensive rebounds, and they made big 3s, (shooting) 11-for-23. So they won the game, and we wish them good luck.”