Blue Devils Claim South Region; Headed to Indy

BY foxsports • March 29, 2010

By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer

March 28, 2010

HOUSTON (AP) -- Mike Krzyzewski insisted all along the drought didn't bother him.

Sure,
he hadn't been to a Final Four since 2004. But there was no need to put
extra pressure on this Duke team just because the last five fell short.

Hey, Coach K, look who's chasing another national championship.

Duke
restored some order to a topsy-turvy NCAA tournament on Sunday, getting
a career-high 29 points from Nolan Smith in a 78-71 victory over Baylor
that put Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils back in college basketball's
biggest event.

"It's not about the moments that I've been in,
it's the moments that your players put you in right now," Krzyzewski
said. "I'm really happy for this group. ... It's as close a team as
I've had. You want great things to happen for people who are great with
us."

Jon Scheyer added five 3-pointers and scored 20 for Duke,
ending Baylor's run to redemption in the South Regional final. The Blue
Devils became the only No. 1 seed to advance to Indianapolis and earned
their 11th Final Four berth under Krzyzewski.

"I don't know if
it's a relief, but it's nice that no one can say anymore that we
haven't been to a Final Four in so many years," Kyle Singler said.

Now, Singler and his teammates get the chance at a championship that every player who goes through the program expects to have.

"I
don't know that it's fully hit me," said Scheyer, one of the three Duke
seniors. "I'm sure after the year I'll have a better appreciation. But
right now, I'm just ecstatic."

Smith hit the tiebreaking 3 with
3:33 remaining immediately after missing a free throw. Senior forward
Lance Thomas grabbed the rebound -- one of Duke's 17 offensive boards
after halftime.

"I can't put it into words," Thomas said. "It took us four years to get here and we're not done yet."

The
Blue Devils will play East Regional champion West Virginia in the
national semifinals Saturday night. They have won 11 of their last 12
regional finals under Krzyzewski, but haven't won a national title
since 2001.

Coach K made his first Final Four with Duke in 1986 and hadn't had a gap this long between trips.

To
end the drought, Duke had to win at Reliant Stadium -- only 3 hours
from Baylor's campus. Most of the crowd of 47,492 was dressed in the
green and gold of the Bears.

"We played against a great team," Krzyzewski said. "It was such a well-played game, and we were fortunate to win."

Smith
and Scheyer helped the Blue Devils (33-5) offset a poor game from
Singler, who was 0 for 10 from the field and made only five free
throws. It was the first time in his college career the junior forward
failed to hit a field goal.

LaceDarius Dunn had 22 points and
Ekpe Udoh scored 18 for the third-seeded Bears (28-8), whose program
was in shambles when coach Scott Drew took over in the wake of murder
and scandal less than seven years ago.

Drew took the Bears from
tatters to the cusp of their first Final Four appearance in 60 years.
After three consecutive 20-win seasons and an inspiring postseason run,
maybe Baylor can be recognized more for its success now than the tragic
summer of 2003 that is finally starting to feel like a long time ago.

"I
really hope so and I really feel it has," Drew said, his voice
quivering. "I do really want to thank all the fans in the state of
Texas."

After tying the game for the 12th time on a free throw
with 3:36 left, Smith missed his second attempt. But Thomas grabbed one
of his nine rebounds and quickly passed the ball right back to Smith,
who hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Duke up 64-61.

Scheyer then extended the lead to six with his fifth 3-pointer.

"Those
two 3s in a row, by Nolan and then Jon, those were big-time plays,"
Krzyzewski said. "The big guys kicked it out and those are the best 3s
to take."

And the long-range shots were the best for Duke
against Baylor's tenacious zone defense featuring a combination of a
7-footer and a pair of 6-10 players.

The Blue Devils made 11 of 23 3-pointers (48 percent) -- and shot only 11 of 38 from inside the arc.

But
they didn't need a miracle shot on the 18th anniversary of Christian
Laettner's game-winner against Kentucky in the 1992 tournament.

With
Baylor desperately trying to get the ball back after a turnover by
Tweety Carter, there was a scuffle by the sideline following a whistle
and Quincy Acy was called for a technical foul. Scheyer hit both free
throws, pushing the lead to 10 with 1:19 left.

The fairy-tale ending wasn't meant to be for the Bears -- at least this year.

"It's
not over for this program. It was a great season," said Dunn, the
junior guard who had obviously shed tears before the postgame
interview. "Teammates should hold their head up high and be proud of
the things we accomplished this year."

Carter and Acy had 12 points each for Baylor. Udoh had 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks.

Drew
was 32 when he was hired and had been a head coach only one season,
winning 20 games at Valparaiso after nine years there as his father's
assistant. He had to rebuild in the powerful Big 12 with reduced
scholarships and a roster decimated by the transfers of the top three
scorers after that tragic summer in 2003 when Patrick Dennehy was shot
to death by a teammate.

Baylor made it to the NCAA tournament
two years ago, when it lost in the first round to Purdue, and to the
NIT championship game last April.

The Bears were picked 10th in
the preseason poll by the Big 12 coaches at the beginning of this
season after losing three 1,000-point scorers to graduation. But they
were the last Big 12 team still playing.

After Dunn darted
through traffic for a layup and then made two free throws, the Bears
were up 57-54 with just under 6 minutes left. Their lead didn't last
long.

Scheyer missed a 3-pointer, but Mason Plumlee got the
rebound and threw the ball right back to the senior guard -- who hit
from about 25 feet to tie it.


share story