Duke surges past Michigan State, 81-61, to advance to title game

Duke surges past Michigan State, 81-61, to advance to title game
Duke center Jahlil Okafor tries to block a shot by Michigan State guard Travis Trice last week. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Duke proved Saturday why it was a top-seeded team and Michigan State proved why it should have been just happy to be here.

Duke let loose its fleet of future NBA stars to score an easy 81-61 win over seventh-seeded Michigan State in the first national semifinal game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Duke advanced to the championship Monday on the play of four freshmen who have steadily improved.

"We are better," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his team. "We kept getting better. Our guys pay attention and want to learn."

Duke's "Fab Four" of Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen contributed 55 of the Blue Devils' points.

That, combined with 17 from senior guard Quinn Cook, helped push Duke (34-3) to the brink of the championship.

Gritty and tough play got underestimated Michigan State through the East regional, but the Spartans ended up road kill in Indianapolis.

Duke is making its 11th title-game appearance and seeks its third title in Indianapolis after victories in 1991 and 2010.


Krzyzewski is also one win from his fifth NCAA title as a coach.

Duke didn't look title-worthy in the first four minutes. The Blue Devils trailed, 14-6, at a media timeout before going on a 14-2 run to seize control.

"Our kids, for the next 36 minutes, played lights-out basketball," Krzyzewski said. "That's the best we've played in the tournament."

No one watching would argue.

Duke led by 11 at the half and opened the second half with a 6-0 spurt.

Duke pushed the lead to 20 on two Quinn Cook free throws with 13:30 left.

Two Kentucky scouts, charting the game in the event of a Monday night matchup, left with 7:31 remaining and Duke leading by 15.

"I don't think we played very well," Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. "I think Duke had something to do with that. I think Michigan State had something to do with that."

Duke used its size advantage to get to the free-throw line 37 times, making 27. Michigan State made 10 of 16 attempts.

Michigan State was also hurt by 14 turnovers.

Duke's two freshmen big men, Winslow and Okafor, scored 19 and 17 points..

The 6-11 Okafor, who figures to be a top-five pick if he chooses to enter the NBA draft, was too big for Michigan State to handle.

"It was just his positioning," Branden Dawson, the Spartans' 6-6 forward, said of trying to guard Okafor. "Every time he got the ball he just made a great move."

There was a lot of talk this week about the difficulty of shooting in football stadiums, but neither team seemed bothered in the opening minutes.

Michigan State made its first four three-point attempts as part of its early eight-point lead before falling apart.

Spartans forward Denzel Valentine made the first three, three-point shots he took.

The mandatory media timeout seemed to ruin all of the Spartans' momentum, though, as Duke regrouped after the break and went on its run.

"They did a good job of taking me away," Valentine said

Izzo was upset his team settled for outside shots after making a few of them early.

The Spartans ended up shooting only 40% (22 of 55) while Duke ended 52% (26 for 50).

Duke had an easy fix to Michigan State's early shooting success by cranking up its perimeter defense and denying the Spartans open looks at the basket.

"I don't think we started out the game with the intensity we needed," Cook, Duke's senior guard, said. "We got down early and coach got on us."

Izzo is considered one of the game's great coaches but has not had much success against Krzyzewski, falling to 1-9 after Saturday's loss.

Valentine led Michigan State (27-12) with 22 points, while guard Travis Trice had 16.

Duke started the year with a young team and a lot of question marks.

The only question left is whether Duke will hang another banner after Monday.

"The lights and stage have not been too big for them," Krzyzewski said.