In Greensboro, Duke managed to do what no one else has done lately, namely contain T.J. Warren.
Of course, that's relatively speaking. In the stretch run of the ACC and into the tourney, Warren hung 31 on Virginia Tech, 36 on UNC, 41 on Pitt, 42 on BC and 24 on Miami. Only Miami, in the regular season matchup, kept him at 20 or under.
So for Duke to keep Warren at 21 is a notable accomplishment. That it may have been made easier somewhat by State's three previous games in the tournament, or that Warren played all but four minutes in those games doesn't much matter. March is March.
Duke got solid games from everyone. Jabari Parker was excellent throughout, including one of his patented end-to-end drives and dunks which pretty much spelled the end for State's hopes.
Rodney Hood was his usual solid self - it's funny how Duke fans have sort of grown to take him for granted. He finished with 14 and for much of the game did a solid job on Warren.
Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton played 65 minutes and only had one turnover between them. Quinn Cook, emerging from a late-season swoon, had just one turnover and 14 points. Sulaimon and Cook combined for 30 points. When the pair of them are playing well, Duke is a lot tougher.
The team had just six turnovers if you listen to ESPN, which in a tournament game is hugely impressive.
How good is Warren? You have to look a long way back at State to find someone better. Kenny Carr? That would be a tough choice.
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But it wasn't just Warren. Anthony "Cat" Barber had a really solid game for State, particularly in the first half. He finished with 12 on 4-5 shooting. Jordan Vandenberg scord just six but was a steady, intimidating presence under the basket.
We won't see it sufficiently until next year, but Kyle Washington, Lennard Freeman and Beejay Anya are all going to be factors. It'll be really interesting to see how much they improve during the summer.
If you want to pick a nit in this game, it would be free throw shooting: Duke was just 12-23, or 52.2%.That could've been fatal in a different game.
Fortunately, it wasn't.
And if we could, a word for State. Earlier this year we had a disagreement with Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, who said that recruiting was the key to elite status. Well, tell that to Baylor. The key is coaching, which leads to recruits, which leads to better results which leads back to recruits.
When State lost earlier to N.C. Central earlier this year, a lot of us, including this site, misunderstood. Like State, NCCU is a very well coached team. Ask Wichita.
But many discounted Central's win and assumed State was simply wretched. As it turns out, that wasn't the case. Far from it. It was almost a completely overhauled roster, and lots of roles had to be sorted out, but Mark Gottfried has done a remarkable job. We weren't sure about him when State hired him, but he has proved to be a very good coach. State absolutely belongs in the field tomorrow. We hope the committee agrees. And DeCourcy too, for that matter.
Now Duke moves on to play Virginia on Sunday at 1:00. Being in the championship game is what Duke always aims for, and now the Devils have a chance to win a conference championship.
It won't be easy. When you look at Virginia, what do you see? You see some really good basketball players and some really good athletes, and a couple of guys who qualify on both counts.
But you don't see Andrew Wiggins or Shaq Goodwin or Nik Johnson.
What you do see is the beauty of team. This is a group of guys who understand what the coach wants and who subordinate themselves to achieve it. And what's really impressive is the mental toughness of this group. We saw it in Cameron when Duke seemed ready to break Virginia before the 'Hoos rushed back into it, making it a very dramatic ending.
It won't be easy tomorrow either. Duke can certainly win, but the Devils will have to match Virginia's maturity, discipline and focus.
Not to mention defense.