Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blue Devils beat Baylor 78-71 for Final Four return


With one of top-seeded Duke’s three big guns held without a field goal by the Baylor defense, the other two stepped up to get the Blue Devils back to the Final Four.

Kyle Singler only scored five points, all from the free throw line, but Nolan Smith scored 29 and Jon Scheyer netted 20 to push Duke past third-seeded Baylor 78-71 in the South Region final in Houston on Sunday.

Now, the Blue Devils (33-5) move on to their first Final Four in six years. They’ll face East Region champion West Virginia in Indianapolis on Saturday night, with defending runner-up Michigan State set to oppose first-time participant Butler in the other national semifinal.

Duke turned a four-point possession and a Baylor technical into a 12-1 second-half run to punch its ticket to Indianapolis. Trailing 61-60 with just over 3 1/2 minutes left, Smith went to the line for a pair of free throws. He made the first one and missed the second, but Lance Thomas pulled down one of his astounding eight offensive boards and found Smith for a 3-pointer that gave Duke the lead.

Scheyer then nailed a trey on Duke’s next possession, and after a Baylor free throw, Thomas made a three-point play off a dunk putback, putting the Blue Devils up 70-62.

After a Singler steal, the Bears’ frustration got the better of them. Scheyer threw an elbow in the general direction of Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn’s face trying to break a double-team, and after play had stopped, the Bears’ Quincy Acy bumped Smith, leading to a technical on Acy. Scheyer sank the two technical free throws with 1:19 left to extend Duke’s lead to double digits.

Baylor (28-8) could get no closer than five after that. Dunn hit a 3 off an in-bounds pass with 9 seconds left, but Singler nailed two free throws at the other end to set the final margin at 78-71.

Trailing by five late in the first half, Baylor scored 10 unanswered points to take what would become a halftime lead. Ekpe Udoh made a free throw, Dunn stole the ball and dunked, Acy scored and dunked on consecutive possessions and Tweety Carter sank a 3. The Bears led 35-32 at the break.

But the Blue Devils used another four-point possession to spark a rally early in the second period. Trailing 42-37, Singler scored his first point of the game on a free throw, but missed the second one. Scheyer, however, snagged the rebound and was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer. Scheyer then downed all three free throws.

After a Dunn layup, Smith sank four straight free throws. Udoh hit two from the line for Baylor, but Smith answered with a jumper, and Brian Zoubek’s putback put Duke up 49-46 with 14 minutes to go.

Dunn led the Bears with 22 points. Udoh posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Carter and Acy each scored 12.

Singler had made at least one field goal in all 108 career games prior to Sunday. … This was the teams’ first meeting. … This is Duke’s 11th Final Four under coach Mike Krzyzewski. … The Blue Devils are 11-1 in region finals since 1985. … Duke hit just 22 of 61 field goals, or 36.1 percent. Baylor shot 45.8 percent from the field. … This was the Bears’ winningest season in school history.


Video credit – CBS

Saturday, March 27, 2010

West Virginia knocks off ‘Cats to reach Final Four


With a trip to the Final Four on the line, West Virginia’s sharpshooters had little trouble taking down the favored but cold-shooting Kentucky.

Da’Sean Butler scored 18 points to lead the second-seeded Mountaineers past top-seeded Kentucky 73-66 in the East Region final in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday night.

West Virginia (31-6) is headed to its second Final Four in school history and first in 51 years. A key reason for that success was using a 1-3-1 zone to force the explosive Wildcats (35-3) offense to shoot jumpers.

Kentucky, consequently, shot just 4-for-32 from behind the arc. The ‘Cats also sank just 55.2 percent of their free throws. Meanwhile, West Virginia hit 10 3-pointers – all of its first-half points from the field came from long range.

Already leading 28-26 at the start of the second half, the Mountaineers opened up a double-digit lead immediately. Kevin Jones made a 3-pointer in the corner, emergency starter Joe Mazzulla went coast-to-coast for a layup and John Flowers sank a trey for a 36-26 edge – Kentucky’s first double-digit deficit of the NCAA tournament.

Then, up 53-45, West Virginia poured home eight straight points for a lead that would prove insurmountable. Cam Thoroughman broke free for a wide-open layup, Jones got the roll on a baseline jumper and Devin Ebanks scored and added two free throws for a 61-45 advantage.

Kentucky turned up the pressure and managed to cut its deficit to four points late. Trailing 68-58, freshman phenom John Wall sank a long 3, Patrick Patterson made two free throws and Darnell Dodson got a trey to fall after Smith and Butler each made a free throw, coming to within 70-66 with 29 seconds to go.

Jones then made one of two from the line for the Mountaineers, and Thoroughman altered Dodson’s 3 on the other end. Ebanks sank two free throws with 13 seconds left to end it.

Mazzulla, starting in place of point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant, who broke his right foot in practice Tuesday, scored 17 points, a career high. Jones added 13 and Ebanks chipped in 12.

Wall led all scorers with 19 points for the Wildcats. DeMarcus Cousins contributed 15, while Patterson hauled down 13 rebounds.

NOTES: West Virginia has won 10 straight games. … Kentucky lost for just the second time in its last 18 contests. … The Mountaineers are 25-0 this season when holding opponents under 70 points. … West Virginia will take on the winner of Sunday’s South Region final, pitting Duke and Baylor, next Saturday in Indianapolis.


Video credit – CBS