Duke defeats Gonzaga, 66-52, for trip to Final Four

 Duke defeats Gonzaga, 66-52, for trip to Final Four
Duke forward Justise Winslow tries to power his way past Gonzaga forward Angel Nunez during Blue Devils' 66-52 victory over the Bulldogs on Sunday in the South Regional final in Houston. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

It has been so long since Duke last advanced out of an NCAA tournament region that Coach Mike Krzyzewski has grandchildren who were not alive to see the Blue Devils in the Final Four.

OK, it has been only five years, but at Duke, where cutting down nets seems like a birthright, five years can feel like an eternity.


So, with 45 seconds left in Duke's 66-52 win over Gonzaga on Sunday, after the game was iced by a Matt Jones layup, Krzyzewski pumped his arms, spun toward his family, and yelled, "We're going to the Final Four!"

Krzyzewski, who has reached the Final Four in more than a third of his 35 seasons at Duke, will make his 12th appearance, tied for the most ever with the late UCLA coach John Wooden. The Blue Devils, champions of the South, will play Michigan State, of the East, on Saturday.

On the other end of the spectrum were the Bulldogs, who have reached the NCAA tournament 17 seasons in a row but still have not gone to the Final Four.

"I felt like this was the team to do it," Bulldogs junior Eric McClellan said.

This was, in fact, their best shot in some time. They advanced to the regional final for the first time since the streak began in 1999. They won 35 games this season.

"Thirty-five wins. Are you kidding me?" Krzyzewski said. "But somebody is going to throw up in them they haven't gone to a Final Four. Come on."

He added, "It's not a birthright," not even at Duke.

And Gonzaga nearly stole it. The Blue Devils rode a slew of three-pointers to an 11-point lead in the first half, but Kyle Wiltjer dragged Gonzaga back into the game with 13 first-half points.

After the Bulldogs took a brief second-half lead, Matt Jones answered. He made four of seven three-point attempts for 16 points for the game.

With less than five minutes left, and Duke's lead at three, Przemek Karnowski flipped a pass to a waiting Wiltjer. With a wide-open layup, Wiltjer went up tentatively. The ball rimmed out.

"He would make that thing 499 times out of 500," Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said. "Just a fluke."

Gonzaga never recovered. Justise Winslow, Duke's Houston-raised freshman, scored the next seven points. He capped the run with a three-pointer, which all but sealed the game.

After the shot, the usually placid Winslow turned to the crowd and screamed.

"Right now," Winslow said afterward, "I'm just in the clouds."


Winslow finished with 16 points. Four of Duke's five starters finished in double figures. The only player who did not was Jahlil Okafor, the freshman who has been discussed as a possible No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. He scored nine.

Krzyzewski said this is the youngest team he's ever coached. Three freshmen, Winslow, Okafor and Tyus Jones, are starters. Jones, who was named the most outstanding player of the South Regional, scored 15 points and had six assists.

But Krzyzewski saved a special honor for Quinn Cook, the only senior in the starting lineup, who avoided the ignominious distinction of going four years at Duke without a Final Four. Krzyzewski gave him the remains of the sliced-up net.

In the locker room, Cook draped it around his shoulders. Nearby, players took photos with the regional champion plaque.

On the whiteboard, a couple of Krzyzewski's young grandchildren scrawled a message: "We win."