Smith leads Duke past Butler in title game rematchDec 5, 2010 - 1:58 PM East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - Nolan Smith scored 24 points as top- ranked Duke pulled away to beat Butler, 82-70, in a rematch of last season's NCAA championship game at IZOD Center.
Freshman Kyrie Irving added 21 points for the Blue Devils (8-0), who captured their fourth national title by beating the Bulldogs, 61-59, in Indianapolis last April.
Irving's performance, however, illustrates the fact that while Saturday's game featured the same schools as last season's title game, the teams are not identical.
Gone is Gordon Hayward, the protagonist of Butler's underdog story whose desperation half-court shot at the buzzer just missed. Hayward led the Bulldogs in scoring last season and left for the NBA, while fellow starter Willie Veasley graduated.
Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, the Blue Devils' leading scorer and rebounder last season, respectively, have both moved on, along with Lance Thomas.
But Duke is still at the top of the college basketball world, as it had already taken wins over Kansas State and Michigan State prior to Saturday's matchup. The Blue Devils have also won 18 consecutive games dating back to last season.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski got his 876th career victory, pulling him into a tie with Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp for third all-time on the Division I level.
Shawn Vanzant scored 14 to lead Butler (4-3), which was coming off Wednesday's win against Loyola-Chicago.
Smith's dunk at the end of a back-and-forth first half sent the teams into the break in a 33-33 tie.
It was still close early in the second half, and two Matt Howard free throws followed by a Chase Stigall layup gave Butler a 44-42 edge nearly five minutes in.
But the Blue Devils gained control with a 12-0 run. Kyle Singler, named the most outstanding player of the Final Four last season, scored back-to-back buckets to sustain the spurt, which Mason Plumlee ended with a dunk. The stretch put Duke up 54-44 almost midway through the period.
Vanzant came alive, though, to get Butler back in the game. Shortly after Duke's run ended, he scored 10 consecutive Bulldogs points. Vanzant ended his personal run with a three to bring Butler within 60-57 with 7:25 to play.
But Irving responded a trey on each of Duke's next two possessions, restoring some breathing room. They were back-breaking shots for Butler, which didn't get closer than seven the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs' free throw-shooting performance didn't help, as they went just 10-of-20 from the line. By comparison, Duke made 24-of-29.
Duke is 19-1 all-time at the Meadowlands, and is 8-0 under Krzyzewski for the 16th time...Singler ended with 13 points, while Plumlee added eight points and eight boards. Andre Dawkins provided 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench...Howard finished with 13 points for Butler, while Shelvin Mack ended with 11 as he struggled with cramping...The Bulldogs fell to 0-3 all-time against top-ranked teams...Bulldogs starting point guard Ronald Nored did not play against Loyola because of concussion symptoms, and missed his only shot in his return to the court on Saturday.
- BUTLER: 70
Dec 4 5:21 PM
- BUTLER: 33
Dec 4 4:03 PM
- BUTLER: 0
1st Half - 20:00
Dec 4 3:19 PM
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