HOUSTON — Duke senior forward Lance Thomas missed seven of his first eight field-goal attempts and was overwhelmed by Baylor's size for most of the game.
But he made two huge plays on offensive rebounds Sunday to help Duke pull away in a 78-71 defeat of Baylor in the South Regional final.
Thomas rebounded a missed Nolan Smith free throw to set up Smith for the 3-point basket that gave Duke the lead for good. Thomas also converted on a tip dunk for a three-point play that extended the lead to 70-62 with 1 minute, 36 seconds remaining.
Before the game, as he listened to the national anthem with his arms locked with his teammates, Thomas was so jittery that he couldn't keep still. But he didn't look nervous at the end.
"Throughout the year, I've always done the little things for this team," Thomas said. "I'll guard the other team's best player. I'll take that charge. I'll get that loose ball. ... On this team, that's not overlooked."
Remember '08: Bob Huggins was in his first season on West Virginia's bench when the Mountaineers last met Duke in an NCAA game. It was the 2008 tournament and it didn't go well for the Blue Devils, who finished 28-6.
Seeded second in the West Regional, Duke lost 73-67 in a second-round game in Washington, D.C. Jon Scheyer got 15 points and Kyle Singler six. Nolan Smith, in 12 minutes, added five.
West Virginia, which finished 26-11 and was seeded seventh, was led by Joe Alexander with 22. Overall, Duke leads the series 17-7.
The Mountaineers also put an end to Wake Forest's hopes in the 2005 tournament by winning one of the most memorable games of that year, 111-105 in a second-round West Regional game.
Scheyer hits marks: After going 5-for-15 in a semifinal win Friday over Purdue, Jon Scheyer went 5-for-12 overall and 5-for-10 on 3-point attempts in the win over Baylor.
"Coming into the game I wasn't going to worry about or think about my shot," Scheyer said. "I was just going to let it go when I was open. I really wanted to follow my instincts."
The plan worked, although more than 10 minutes elapsed before Scheyer hit his first bucket - a 3-pointer that gave Duke a 20-16 with 9:40 left in the first half.
Devils the favorite? By virtue of the NCAA tournament's seeding, the Blue Devils should go to Indianapolis as the favorite to win the NCAA title.
Duke is the only No. 1 regional seed that hasn't been eliminated from the tournament. West Virginia, the Big East tournament champion and the No. 2 seed in the East, will be the Blue Devils' seminal opponent.
The other semifinal will match a pair of No. 5 seeds - Michigan State and Butler.
All-regional team: Duke actually was outnumbered on the all-regional team after forward Kyle Singler struggled to a 0-for-10 performance from the field in the regional final.
Nolan Smith was named regional most outstanding player after scoring a career-high 29 points in the final. Jon Scheyer also made the all-regional team.
Baylor was represented on the team by three players - LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Ekpe Udoh.
K-Speak: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski rated Baylor star LaceDarius Dunn as the "best two-guard" Duke has faced all season.
"That guy is something. He's capable of scoring 35 or 40. He's just an assassin," Krzyzewski said.