West Virginia just didn’t have an answer for Duke’s 3-point shooting. The Blue Devils hit 13 of 25 from behind the arc and got a combined 63 points from Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer to defeat the Mountaineers 78-57 in the second national semifinal game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Duke now advances to the national championship game to face Butler, which knocked off Michigan State 52-50.
“Our team played really well tonight,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “To score that many points against West Virginia is a lot.”
“Those three perimeter guys are terrific,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
Duke (34-5) started the game by spreading out West Virginia in the half court with dribble drives to the basket, and that opened up the wings for Singler, Scheyer and Smith to bomb away.
“I felt it was a really good shooting background,” said Scheyer.
Duke had an early seven point lead, 18-11, on seven straight Singler points. Kevin Jones answered with a 3 to make it 18-14, and then the Mountaineers got five straight from Jones and John Flowers to reduce Duke’s lead to one, 23-21.
Duke answered with a 14-3 spurt over the next minute and a half, the Blue Devils getting three straight 3s from Smith, to take a 37-24 lead.
“They played really well,” said Huggins. “We went to the 1-3-1 and we just don’t do things very well on the fly and that’s my fault. I’ve watched a lot of tape of them and they played really well ? and we didn’t play very well and that happens.”
Da’Sean Butler’s drive to the basket stopped the run and a Devin Ebanks three-point play with 2:54 left pulled the Mountaineers to within eight, 39-31, but neither team scored the rest of the half.
Early in the second half West Virginia made it a five-point game, 43-38, on a pair of Butler free throws before Duke’s Smith answered with another big 3. Scheyer’s 3 after two more Butler free throws made it a nine-point Duke advantage.
From there, the Blue Devils got their lead to a 14 during a key two-minute stretch when West Virginia tried three straight times to work the ball inside to freshman center Deniz Kilicli. All three attempts resulted in turnovers and Duke was able to get baskets by Brian Zoubek and Smith. Scheyer also added two of three from the free throw line when Kilcli fouled him trying a 3 from the top of the key.
With 8:59 left in the game and the Mountaineers trailing by 15, Butler injured his knee attempting to take the ball to the basket. The senior collided with Zoubek, his left knee buckled, and he went to the ground where he laid in pain for several minutes. Huggins walked out on the floor, got down on his knees and hugged his star player, and then Butler had to be helped from the floor and was taken to the locker room in a golf cart.
“It was very frustrating for us to see our best player go down, especially when we were trying to make a run,” said Ebanks.
Butler, called for an offensive foul on the collision, finished his fantastic WVU career with 10 points.
“When you’re the third leading scorer anywhere behind Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley you’re a heck of a player,” said Huggins.
“We thought the matchup with Kyle and Butler was the key matchup for us,” added Krzyzewski. “Singler had a great game because he had the toughest matchup.”
Smith finished his career with a team-best 12 points while Ebanks added 11.
“It was hard to get (Butler) the ball because they kept switching and denying,” said Smith. “He didn’t get into it because they kept denying him the ball.”
West Virginia was just 6 of 20 from the floor in the second half and finished the game shooting 41.3 percent overall.
Scheyer had a game-high 23 for Duke, Singler contributed 21 and Smith added 19. Those three went a combined 12 of 23 from behind the 3-point arc. Overall, Duke shot 53.3 percent (29 of 55) against the Mountaineers for the game.
“We beat a really good team,” Krzyzewski said. “I just think we’re getting better throughout the year. I think we got better this week.”
The Blue Devils had a 29-27 edge on the boards, although they did most of their damage on the glass in the first half. Zoubek finished with a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Mountaineers, making their first Final Four appearance in 51 years, end their season with a 31-7 record. The 31 victories is a school record for victories in a season.
“We’ve got great guys and we thought we had a chance in the beginning of the year to be a pretty good basketball team,” Huggins said. “Our guys did a great job of persevering and working through things.”
Huggins was making his second Final Four appearance. He led Cincinnati to a Final Four in 1992.
Krzyzewski is looking for his fourth national title. He got his first in Indianapolis in 1991. This was Duke’s 15th Final Four appearance and the 11th under Krzyzewski.
By John Antonik
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