Duke punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 78-69 win over Arkansas Saturday night.
The Blue Devils used an 8-0 run to break a 14-14 tie early and closed the first half on another 8-0 run to take a 45-33 lead into the locker room.
Arkansas led in the early going but never by more than three points.
Their last lead was at 9-8. Duke took a 14-11 lead then J.D. Notae tied it with a triple.
Duke responded with the first of three runs that decided the game.
Moore started it with a tip-in, then Banchero made four foul shots and Trevor Keels made it 22-14 with a layup.
Arkansas kept it close. Duke led 37-33 with over two minutes left in the half. But a Banchero 3-pointer, a Williams layup and a Keels 3-pointer right before intermission and Duke was up 45-33 at the half.
Arkansas wasn’t shooting well, wasn’t rebounding well, wasn’t getting to the line and trailed by a dozen at the half.
But they made Duke sweat and they deserve enormous credit for that. The Razorbacks went right after Duke and got some inside baskets while using their athleticism and physicality. A 9-2 Arkansas run made it 53-48 and prompted Krzyzewski to call a timeout.
“At the start of the second half, I thought they just took control of the game,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “We were not playing well. But they were making us not play well.”
No one blunts rallies with a timeouts better than Mike Krzyzewski and he did it again. Paolo Banchero scored on a layup right out of the timeout, then A.J. Griffin on a jumper, then Banchero two from the line, then Griffin again, then Wendell Moore, Jr. on a jumper.
“At that timeout, our guys really got organized offensively,” Krzyzewski said. “We scored on four or five straight, we hit on a set that gave us some good looks, got the ball to Paolo and then reversed it to A.J. and changing the defense helped and from then on we just had control of the game.”
Banchero discussed his play following that timeout.
“I was trying to take my shots and make strong moves. I just wanted to be aggressive and get to the line and convert. We needed a boost.”
Duke was getting equally important stops on the other end, with Mark Williams owning the paint.
“Mark really was the difference maker for us today,” Krzyzewski said.
“I just tried my best to protect the rim,” Williams said. “I thought that was important for us.”
And yes, we saw some more zone, a zone Krzyzewski said that allows Williams to stay in the lane.
Another tool in the tool box heading to New Orleans.
Duke’s 10-0 run out of that critical timeout broke it open.
“For this group to do that in that half—because we were not playing well and we were ready to get knocked out. But the last 12 minutes they didn’t get knocked out,” Krzyzewski said. “They played beautiful basketball.”
Duke led by as many at 18 at 72-54. The Blue Devils started celebrating a bit early and had some sloppy turnovers in the final stretch but the outcome was never actually in doubt in the final 10 minutes.
The win was the kind of team victory that makes coaches proud. Griffin led Duke with 18 points, two more than Banchero, the latter of whom had 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Moore added 14 points, Williams 14 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks, Jeremy Roach and Keels 9 points each.
Duke out-rebounded Arkansas 34-25 and out-shot them 55 percent to 42 percent. The foul shooting was spectacular, 11-11 for Arkansas, 16-18 for Duke. But Arkansas lives at the line, so holding them to 11 attempts counts as a plus. As does holding Arkansas to 6-20 on 3s and holding their leading scorer J.D. Notae to 14 points on 5-14 shooting.
Jaylin Williams led Arkansas with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The turnovers need cleaning up—especially Roach’s five. But you wouldn’t want to have a perfect game too soon.
Moore said the the team would enjoy this and then get back to work.
“This is our second banner we’ve hung. But the job is not finished. We want to hang one more banner. We going to take this five-hour trip back to Durham and going to be happy about it. But once we get back to practice, start to move on.”
We’ll hear a lot about the numbers in the next few days. Mike Krzyzewski’s 13th Final Four- breaking a tie with John Wooden for first place-Duke’s 17 Final Fours, Krzyzewski’s 101 NCAA Tournament wins—and counting-Duke’s 32-6 overall mark.
But most importantly, the mantra of March. Duke survives and Duke advances.
“My team has just played such good basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “They’ve been terrific. They’ve crossed the bridge.”
So enjoy Sunday’s games secure in the knowledge that Duke will be there and we’ll sort out the details later.
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Player Of The Game vs. Arkansas
This poll is closed