Duke held a statistical advantage in just about every aspect on Saturday night during its 81-61 victory against Michigan State in an NCAA tournament national semifinal.
The Blue Devils shot a higher percentage from the field, finished with more rebounds and fewer turnovers. The greatest statistical disparity between the teams, though, came at the free throw line.
Duke made 27 of its 37 attempts there – some of them coming late when the Spartans fouled, trying to get back into the game. Michigan State attempted 16 free throws, and made 10 of them.
Afterward, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo criticized the officiating and said, “You’re not allowed to touch anybody anymore.”
Duke penetrated the Spartans’ defense with success, which was part of its game plan – to take advantage of what guard Quinn Cook described as “seams we could take advantage of.” The penetration led to scoring opportunities and, often, free throw attempts after fouls.
“I was here when we had smash mouth basketball,” Izzo said. “I totally agree. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. But I also don’t think – I don’t think anybody wants to see the best players on the bench.
“I mean, I don’t blame the officials. I blame me. I’m on the (rules committee) board. It’s not as much fun to coach when you’re constantly telling guys, ‘Don’t touch them, don’t move.’ We had some fouls we deserved, but there were to me probably some right calls – but bizarre.”
K jumps for joy at Okafor free throws
Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor finished with 18 points, and none elicited as much joy from Krzyzewski as the free throws Okafor made with about 31/2 minutes to play. The outcome had been decided by then but, nonetheless, Krzyzewski jumped high when Okafor made those free throws.
He has struggled at the free throw line, where he’s made 51.1 percent of his attempts. Okafor was 4-for-7 from the line on Saturday.
“He’s worked so hard,” Krzyzewski said. “I thought they were going to do Hack-a-Okafor at that time. If he could, I just wanted to give him as much love and support as I could during that time. I’m not saying he got it because of that. But then he hit them. He’s been working so hard at it. It’s big.”
Allen has his moments
Grayson Allen has at times been Duke’s forgotten freshman, the odd man out of a class that also includes Okafor and Blue Devils starters Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. Allen, though, made the most of his 17 minutes on Saturday.
He had a memorable dunk and a memorable dive on the floor that resulted in a large bruise he showed off with pride in the locker room after the game. He finished with nine points and five rebounds.
“He’s fearless,” Duke guard Quinn Cook said of Allen. “To see him being out there playing fearlessly, playing together, it just says a lot about his character because, you know, he gets overlooked by our great three freshmen. But he brings it every day.”