INDIANAPOLIS — One of Duke's coaches shouted to guard Nolan Smith as the shot clock wound down with West Virginia desperately needing to stop the Blue Devils to get back in the game.
Smith dribbled right, turned the corner at the free-throw line and drove for a gorgeous right-handed layup with 7 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.
Too easy. In what was supposed to be a defensive duel, West Virginia never found a way to stop Smith, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer as Duke rolled to a 78-57 win Saturday night in the NCAA semifinals in front of 71,298 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Blue Devils used excellent 3-point shooting and tenacious rebounding by center Brian Zoubek to advance to the NCAA championship game for the first time since they won the 2001 NCAA title.
Duke (34-5), the No. 1 seed out of the South Region, will play No. 5 regional seed Butler (33-4) at 9:21 p.m. Monday in the NCAA championship game.
"It's a really good team," coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the Blue Devils, "and it can do something great [Monday] night."
This season's Duke team crashed its way into the Final Four by depending largely on physical half-court defense. On Saturday, though, Duke's half-court offense cranked into high gear.
Scheyer scored 23 points, Singler 21 and Smith 19 as Duke shot 29-for-55 from the field, including 13-for-25 from 3-point range.
"Can't we guard?" exasperated West Virginia coach Bob Huggins pleaded with his team early in the second half.
They couldn't, and Zoubek added to the offense as he crashed the boards hard with his 7-foot-1 frame to grab 10 rebounds. He added three assists, many of them on kick-out passes to 3-point shooters after offensive rebounds.
West Virginia (31-7), the No. 2 seed from the East Regional, shot 13-for-26 from the field in the first half but just 6-for-20 after halftime as Duke's defense tightened and turned the game into a rout.
After a week of questions from reporters about how Duke would handle West Virginia's 1-3-1 zone defense, the Mountaineers opened in a man-to-man.
"That was a little surprising for us," Singler said. "We knew they were going to play some man-to-man, but they did play us man almost the whole game."
Regardless of the defense used, junior forward Singler was ready after shooting an abysmal 0-for-10 from the field in the Blue Devils' regional final win over Baylor.
The Blue Devils immediately got the ball to Singler in the low post on a set play. The shot was blocked, but Singler bounced back quickly. Krzyzewski clapped his hands hard after Singler scored early on a driving layup.
By halftime, Singler had 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field as Duke was on target from 3-point range. Smith made three 3-pointers and Singler and Scheyer two apiece as Duke led by as many as 11 points in the first half and held a 39-31 advantage at halftime.
West Virginia tried a zone just once in the first half. Smith immediately sank a 3-pointer to take the Mountaineers out of it.
"We definitely came out and played a very complete game," Smith said. "This team was ready."
The only negative point for the Blue Devils in the first half was that Smith committed three fouls and spent the final 2:54 of the half on the bench.
Although West Virginia closed the gap to six points early in the second half, Scheyer immediately answered with a 3-pointer from the wing with 15:28 remaining, and Duke began to pull away to a lead that reached 15 points.
Monday's game will be billed as an underdog, hometown favorite Butler trying to eliminate traditional power Duke. After the way the Blue Devils played Saturday, it's difficult to argue with that storyline.
But Krzyzewski was eager to describe Butler's 25-game winning streak to his players in preparation for the game.
"They're one of the best teams in the country," Krzyzewski said. "I think Cinderella would be if somebody had eight, nine losses and had pulled some upsets. ... They're one of the best teams."
Clearly, so is Duke.
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