Duke beats Creighton 66-50 to advance to Sweet 16

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMarch 24, 2013 

— The Blue Devils and the Bluejays spent all day waiting for their third-round game, which tipped at 9:40 p.m. Sunday.

The much-vaunted offenses, though, never showed up.

In a game that featured major foul trouble for both teams, Duke especially, it was the Blue Devils who prevailed, taking a 66-50 victory to send the program back to the Sweet 16.

The 50 points for the Bluejays represented their lowest output for the season.

Seth Curry had 13 of Duke’s first 22 second-half points, slowly but surely keeping the Blue Devils ahead.

The Bluejays entered the NCAA tournament as the nation’s second-best shooting team, making 51 percent of their shots from the floor. They finished 16-of-53, 30.2 percent.

Doug McDermott, a two-time All-American and one of the nation’s most prolific scorers, finished 4-of-16 from the floor. A 12-for-12 mark from the free-throw line pushed his total to 21 points. He did not hit a field goal after the 5-minute, 26-second mark in the first half.

Rasheed Sulaimon led Duke with 21 points. Curry had 17.

Duke will play No. 3 seed Michigan State (27-8) in the regional semifinal Friday in Indianapolis.

Whistles were frequent, and it didn’t take long into the second half for both teams to have serious foul concerns. Mason Plumlee picked up his third in the first 30 seconds and his fourth with 17:48 still on the clock. McDermott, who had zero fouls in the first half, had three in the first four minutes of the second. Creighton point guard Grant Gibbs and center Gregory Echenique also had three by the 15:53 mark.

Josh Hairston picked up his third and fourth fouls within a span of two seconds, but he remained on the floor. On the ensuing possession, Curry, who had four first-half points, began a personal 7-2 run.

Curry hit his first 3 of the game, extending Duke’s fragile lead to 37-32. After two long-range misses from Jahenns Manigat, Curry converted a lay-in off of an under-the-basket inbounds to make it a 39-32 Duke advantage.

At the 13:25 mark, Ryan Kelly was whistled for his fourth foul. And, Plumlee, also with four fouls, came in to replace him.

Two Curry free throws minutes later gave Duke 41-32 lead, tying its largest of the game at that point.

The next offensive moment in the game came on an Amile Jefferson putback, which handed Duke its first double-digit lead with 10:29 left in the game.

Hairston was the first to foul out with 9:10 left on the clock. Curry countered with another layup, extending Duke’s lead to 45-34.

Duke’s most prolific offensive stretch came with about seven minutes remaining in the game. Curry hit a 3, Kelly missed, but then Sulaimon hit a jumper and a 3, stretching the lead to 54-42 with 4:16 left.

Gibbs fouled out with 3:03 left in the game. Kelly hit the one of the ensuing free throws – his first point of the game. Duke led 57-44.

Plumlee fouled out on the ensuing possession, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.

After Creighton opened with a 4-0 lead, Duke scored the next 11 points. During that stretch, the Bluejays had seven empty possessions – six missed shots and a turnover. A McDermott 3 broke the dry spell and made it an 11-7 game.

McDermott’s biggest contributions were the fouls he drew on defense. Kelly was whistled for his second foul with 11:29 left in the first half, both coming on McDermott. With 7:48 left on the clock, Plumlee, too, had collected his second foul as he took his turn on McDermott.

Plumlee and Kelly played with two fouls (Hairston collected two in reserve work), but Kelly went to the bench for good when he was whistled for his third with 3:19 left in the opening period, as he bumped a driving Austin Chatman as he went by.

McDermott ended the half with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field and a 1-of-3 mark from behind the arc. Sulaimon, who came out aggressively looking for his shot, led Duke with 11 on a 3-of-7 performance from the floor.

Creighton took a 21-20 lead after Kelly’s third foul. Duke ended the first half on a 9-2 run, as Tyler Thornton sank a running 3-pointer as time expired.

That was the most prolific offensive moment in the game. But for Duke, that was enough.

See the box score from the game

Observations

—Duke’s first-half foul trouble forced Krzyzewski to use a few unusual lineup combinations. Within the final minute, Krzyzewski went small for offense, using Tyler Thornton, Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, playing with two fouls. On the defensive end, he put in Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston for Plumlee and Curry.

—Bill Cowher was in the Wells Fargo Center stands to watch the Blue Devils. He sat with Ryan Kelly’s parents. Cowher’s youngest daughter, Lindsay, and Kelly have dated since high school.

—One of the loudest cheers of the first half came when the jumbotron replayed the end of La Salle’s win over Ole Miss. Even the ushers cheered the Philadelphia school’s advancement to the Sweet 16.

—Despite Mason Plumlee and Josh Hairston picking up two fouls, and Ryan Kelly three, in the first half, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee did not enter the game. Amile Jefferson, who played extensively when Kelly was out with his injured right foot, played three minutes. Krzyzewski let Jefferson know he was pleased with his play in a late first half timeout

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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