HOUSTON — The situation called for old-school, tough-minded basketball, and Duke's best three players were ready to deliver.
A masterful defensive performance by fourth-seeded Purdue had frustrated Duke's scorers early in the South Regional semifinal, so the Blue Devils went to Plan B.
Top-seeded Duke had Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler lower their shoulders and drive to the basket, sparking the Blue Devils to a 70-57 win to advance to the regional final.
"Our execution in the second half was terrific," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "All three of my perimeter guys came up with big, big baskets and free throws."
Scheyer, who missed all six of his first-half field-goal attempts, virtually abandoned his jump shot to score 16 of his 18 points after halftime. Smith added 11 of his 15 points after the half, including seven in a span of 1 minute, 22 seconds that broke open the game with 8 minutes remaining.
Singler, whose 11 first-half points kept the Blue Devils in the game early, finished with a game-high 24 points as Duke (32-5) advanced past the regional semifinals for the first time in six years.
The Blue Devils will play No. 3 seed Baylor (28-7) at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday for the right to go to the Final Four for the first time since 2004.
It was Smith who finally broke Purdue (29-6). With Duke ahead by two points, Smith drove for consecutive baskets. Then, on a rare fast-break opportunity, Scheyer found Smith open in front of the Duke bench.
Smith swished a 3-pointer to complete his own run of seven points in 82 seconds. Duke led 49-40 with eight minutes remaining. As Purdue called timeout, Scheyer and Smith leaped in the air to bump chests.
The Blue Devils' first trip to a regional final in six years was just about clinched, but Scheyer didn't want to savor the win after the game.
"We really can't relax at all," he said. "This isn't the spot we want to be, still. ... We want to keep moving forward."
This game was bound to be a contrast in styles because Duke has its biggest team in coach Mike Krzyzewski's 30 seasons and Purdue was forced to play small after the Feb. 24 injury to 6-foot-9 Robbie Hummel.
The Blue Devils started three players 6-8 or taller, while four Purdue players were 6-4 or shorter.
Duke outrebounded the Boilermakers by an astounding 48-27 margin.
But Purdue immediately targeted Brian Zoubek, Duke's 7-1 center, by having 6-10 JaJuan Johnson shoot mid-range jumpers to draw Zoubek away from the basket.
And Purdue used its quickness to keep the Blue Devils off balance as they caught the ball.
Duke went 8:40 without a field goal and committed 11 first-half turnovers.
"We were struggling in the first half," Singler said. "We had no rhythm. We weren't playing the way we wanted to play and the way we had been playing [in earlier games]."
Johnson scored 13 of his 23 points in the first half, and Duke trailed by four heading into the final minute of the half. But Singler made a deep 3-pointer, then came up with a steal that led to a Smith basket two seconds before halftime, putting Duke ahead 24-23.
Urged to catch the ball stronger and on balance in the second half, the Blue Devils shot 15-for-26 (57.7 percent) from the field after halftime.
Scheyer and Singler both scored on two drives early in the half, including one on which a Zoubek screen at the top of the key that appeared to knock Purdue's Chris Kramer unconscious.
Then it was Smith's turn, and he helped Duke secure the lead for good.
"We just took care of the ball better," Singler said, "[and] Nolan did a good job of really getting to the basket."
And now the regional final awaits.
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