BOSTON — Villanova used a strong second half to rout Duke 77-54 Thursday in the East Region semifinals.
The Wildcats' swarming shutdown defense was at its best against the usually deadly perimeter shooting Blue Devils to set a school record for wins and reach the Elite Eight for the second time in the past four years.
The Wildcats (29-7), who led 26-23 at halftime, meet Pittsburgh on Saturday for a trip to Detroit and the Final Four. They won the lone regular-season meeting against their Big East brethren, 67-57, at home on Jan. 28.
Duke (30-7), which had won five straight and 10 of its previous 11, had no answer for Villanova.
The Blue Devils hit just 7 of 25 shots in the first half (28 percent), including 2 of 11 from 3-point range. Junior standouts Gerald Henderson was 0 for 5, and Jon Scheyer was 1 of 8. Henderson finished 1 of 14 in the game, and Scheyer, the ACC tournament MVP, was 3 of 18.
It got worse after the break as the Wildcats, looking more aggressive and confident at both ends, opened a commanding 49-33 lead with 12:33 left. Duke never cut the deficit below double figures, finishing with a season-low field goal percentage (26.7 percent on 16 of 60).
"A great game for us,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We're getting better this late in the year, which is really exciting."
Duke failed to reach the Elite Eight for the fifth consecutive year.
"Around January, coach said if the team is going to be great, it's when you all take pride in defense," Villanova junior guard Scottie Reynolds said. "We all knew we could score and put points on the board, but there's going to be those times where we don't score and will have to do it on the defensive end."
"It's the commitment to defense we have now," said junior guard Reggie Redding. "And us playing hard and together."
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.