Blue Devils get back to winning ways
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HOUSTONYou knew how it was going to end because it’s how it always ends.
Being this predictable is hard, hard work, and there’s a reason Mike Krzyzewski has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
We knew the outcome Sunday before we ambled into Reliant Stadium, but hey, why not let this play out?
This is America, right? Where anything can happen?
Just because Duke has been “down” recently — and how many programs would love to claim three Sweet 16s in between trips to the Final Four as being “down” — doesn’t mean the Blue Devils aren’t still one of the closest things college basketball has to a sure thing, especially in March, with Coach K on the sideline.
Of course, No. 1 seed Duke defeated No. 3 Baylor, 78-71, Sunday to advance to the Final Four, its first since 2004.
Order has been restored.
“They got me to a Final Four finally,” said Krzyzewski, tongue firmly in cheek. “Like I said yesterday for those of you who were here, it’s not about the moments I’ve been in. It’s the moment that your players put you in right now.”
Oh, sure, there was some drama.
Baylor led early — by six a minute into the game. The Bears led at the half, 35-32.
And then it happened.
Again, it’s what always happens — Duke seized control.
In the NBA, the saying is, “Everyone makes a run.”
In college basketball, substitute “everyone” with “Duke,” and that’s an apt description of what transpired this weekend in Houston.
Brian Zoubek drew a charge on Quincy Acy, and then back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers by Nolan Smith (seven straight points) and Jon Scheyer to bust the game open. It all happened within a span of two minutes, beginning with 4:37 left in regulation, when Baylor led, 59-57.
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With 2:38 left, Duke led, 67-61.
The mini-flurry doomed the Bears, ending the Big 12’s run in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils repeatedly found holes in Baylor’s zone, and Nolan Smith, whose 29 points earned him Most Outstanding Player honors, and Jon Scheyer (20 points) bombed away from deep, making a combined nine of 16 3-pointers.
“You can’t stop everybody,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Duke has multiple weapons. Some games someone’s going to rise up, and we all know about the Big Three. Jon Scheyer rose up, and we did a good job of controlling (Kyle) Singler. But those two got loose, and a lot of it was because of the offensive rebounds.”
There couldn’t have been a more telling statistic — Duke’s supposedly inferior frontcourt out-rebounded Baylor’s bigs, 43-37, including 23 offensive. In fact, offensive rebounds directly led to the second of Smith’s threes and Scheyer’s triple during that key spurt.
The Blue Devils have been telling everyone it all starts with defense and rebounding, and on Sunday, they were half right. The Bears made 46 percent of their shots, led by LaceDarius Dunn’s 22 points.
But as Coach K pointed out, none of Dunn’s 22 points were of the back-breaking variety. He was only 2-for-8 from long range, and the Duke coach said he could live with that.
It was going to take a better effort than that to topple the Blue Devils, and Baylor was nearly game. To no one’s surprise, even though the overwhelming majority of the 47,492 in attendance were pro-Bear, Duke prevailed, the only No. 1 seed to reach Indianapolis.
And doesn’t Duke always prevail?
Jeffrey Martin is a contributor to FOXSports.com. He also writes for the Houston Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.