Thursday, November 23, 2017

Duke outlasts Michigan State in NCAA


INDIANAPOLIS — Seth Curry shot the Blue Devils into the Midwest Region final and helped put coach Mike Krzyzewski on the verge of yet another major milestone.

Curry scored 29 to lead Duke past Michigan State 71-61 Friday night and into the final.

"Seth was just at a different level than anyone else on the court offensively," Krzyzewski said. "To get 29 points in a game like this against a good team is just incredible."

If No. 2-seeded Duke (30-5) beats No. 1-seeded Louisville on Sunday, Krzyzewski ties John Wooden's record of 12 Final Four berths. He also would break a tie with North Carolina's Dean Smith.

The final matchup also is the first between Krzyzewski and Louisville coach Rick Pitino since the famous 1992 region final in which Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater won it for Duke over Kentucky.

Curry's sixth 3-pointer of the game broke a 38-38 tie early in the second half. That began a 9-0 run that included Mason Plumlee's consecutive baskets and another Curry basket.

Duke didn't trail from there.

Curry's six 3-pointers matched the school record for a tournament game most recently accomplished by Jason Williams on March 22, 2001, against UCLA. Four 3-pointers came during the second half.

"I was just trying to set up my cuts a little better," said Curry, who averaged 21.5 points in the Blue Devils' first two tournament games. "The guys were setting screens a little better, so I credit my teammates to get me open and get me into a rhythm."

The No. 3-seeded Spartans (27-9) were led by Keith Appling with 16 points.

"Curry hurt us; no question about it," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who is 1-7 in his matchups against Krzyzewski. "We didn't quit. We hung in there. I thought we played poorly for us, but the better team won."

Sick Cardinals roll

INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville looked more athletic and faster throughout its 77-69 win over Oregon. The No. 1 overall seed didn't feel like it.

"All of our guys are really sick," said Pitino, who seeks his seventh Final Four berth to tie Roy Williams for fourth all time.

"Everybody's coughing and hacking."

The Cardinals (32-5) overcame the colds and the No. 12-seeded Ducks behind Russ Smith, whose 31 points tied a career high.

"I'm terribly sick," the guard said. "I just kept coughing."

And he kept scoring.

"When I'm on the court, I just see little spaces, and I try to get there before the defender," said Smith, who made 12 of 14 free throws and 9 of 16 field goals.

The Ducks (28-9) trailed 45-31 at halftime. Down 16, a 9-2 run cut their deficit to 70-64 with 5:16 left. But Oregon — which brought the beaten-up trophy representing its lone national title, from the first tournament in 1939, as a good-luck charm — made only two more field goals from there.

"We dug too big of a hole," coach Dana Altman said. "I'm disappointed we didn't play a little bit better in that first half. They got off to a great start. It just set a bad tone. We were trying to recover from that all (game)."

The Ducks did not struggle as much against the Cardinals' press as analysts had expected. They shot 44.3 percent and turned the ball over 12 times, one fewer than the Cardinals.

"(Coaches) came with a lot of new press breaks for us," said Ducks forward Arsalan Kazemi, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. "We just practiced on it for three or four days. We were really comfortable with their press."

Pitino credited Oregon.

"Oregon's a great basketball team, one of the best we've played," Pitino said. "Our defense was porous at best, and that's what has carried us."


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