Duke beats MSU by 20 to reach NCAA finalApr 5, 2015 - 3:51 AM Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Three minutes and 41 seconds into the Final Four, Duke faced its biggest deficit of the NCAA Tournament.
Defense turned the Blue Devils around, helping them weather the early barrage by Michigan State on the way to an 81-61 win over the Spartans on Saturday.
Duke will face Wisconsin in Monday's title game after the Badgers ended Kentucky's quest for a perfect season with a 71-64 win.
Justise Winslow led Duke (34-4) with 19 points, fellow freshman Jahlil Okafor scored 18 and Quinn Cook had 17.
The Blue Devils overcame an early 14-6 deficit after Michigan State made four quick 3-pointers, including three from Denzel Valentine.
About two hours later, the final score looked like all the others the South Region's No. 1 seed produced on its way to Indianapolis.
The Blue Devils blew past Robert Morris, San Diego State, Utah and Gonzaga by an average of 17 points on the way to their meeting with the Spartans, the No. 7 seed from the East Region and only non-No. 1 to make this year's Final Four.
"The last 36 minutes we played great basketball," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "That's the best we've played in the tournament and we've played great in the tournament."
Valentine had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Spartans (27-12), who made it through the topsy-turvy East Region with four single-digit wins.
They played in their seventh Final Four in 20 seasons under coach Tom Izzo, who led the Spartans to their second NCAA title back in 2000. It was their first Final Four since falling to Butler in 2010.
"We got beat," Izzo said. "I thought Duke played awfully well but I thought it wasn't one of our better games."
Travis Trice added 16 points and fellow senior Branden Dawson scored 12 but the Spartans shot just 40 percent in the game, including 29 percent in the first half.
They had trouble moving against Duke's halfcourt defense following their early success and needed more than 19 minutes -- 2:51 into the second half -- to score their next 14 points.
The game turned once Duke locked down the Spartans' perimeter shooters.
"They did a good job of taking it away," Valentine said. "I got hot and they started denying a little bit and forcing us to take bad shots and all of a sudden they had a lead."
Okafor, the 6-foot-11 freshman who is likely to be one of the top two picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, scored seven of his 10 first-half points in a 14-2 Duke run.
His putback dunk gave the Blue Devils the lead for good with 9:38 remaining in the first half.
Duke led 36-25 at halftime after holding the Spartans to just three made field goals over the last 16:19. Winslow's layup to open the second half pushed the advantage to 13 and it was never lower than that the rest of the way.
"We've just been trying to hang our hats on our defense," said Winslow. "That's been the key for us in the tournament."
Duke freshman Grayson Allen, who plays about eight minutes a game, provided a highlight when he followed up a 3-point miss from the left corner by getting his own rebound and throwing down a wide-open one-handed dunk.
That made it a 19-point game and the Blue Devils led by as many as 20.
"We could have played better," Valentine said. "Honestly, it was the bad plays that hurt us. They had all the momentum after the first half. ... In the second half they came out and scored a quick bucket and we missed a shot. It was just bad timing."
Monday's championship will be a rematch of a game in Madison on Dec. 3, when Duke beat Wisconsin 80-70 and Krzyzewski called the Badgers "one of the two or three best teams in the country."
Duke beat Michigan State 81-71 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis on Nov. 18 ... The Blue Devils made the Final Four for the first time since winning a fourth national title under Krzyzewski in 2010 ... Krzyzewski coached in his 12th Final Four to tie UCLA legend John Wooden for the all-time lead. He is 9-1 in head-to-head meetings with Izzo ... Michigan State won its 2000 title in Indianapolis on April 3.
- MICHIGAN STATE: 61
Apr 4 8:24 PM
- MICHIGAN STATE: 25
Apr 4 7:03 PM
- MICHIGAN STATE: 0
1st Half - 20:00
Apr 4 6:09 PM
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