Duke rips Michigan State to reach title game
INDIANAPOLIS — The latest Duke team to reach the national championship game got there behind a couple of freshmen and some of the trademark defense coach Mike Krzyzewski’s teams long have been known for.
Justise Winslow scored 19 points and Jahlil Okafor added 18 to lead top-seeded Duke to an 81-61 victory over Michigan State on Saturday and into the title game.
The two freshmen put up some impressive stats in their first Final Four game. Winslow, who played through early foul trouble, had nine rebounds and was 5 for 7 from the field, and Okafor grabbed six rebounds and was 7 for 11 from the field.
Senior Quinn Cook had 17 points for the Blue Devils (34-4), who dominated except for the opening minutes when they trailed 14-6.
“After the first four minutes, we were a different team. We played great basketball tonight, especially on the defensive end,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m so proud of my guys because they beat a great team.”
Denzel Valentine led the Spartans (27-12) with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Travis Trice added 16 points.
Defensively, it was a team effort, just the way Krzyzewski has stressed for his 35 seasons at Duke. What had been wide open 3-pointers early for Michigan State became contested shots, and when the Blue Devils started getting up and on the Spartans, the points were suddenly tough to come by.
The win improved Krzyzewski’s record in national semifinal games to 9-3, and that includes 3-0 in Indianapolis, where the Blue Devils won it all in 1991 and 2010. They had some success earlier this season in Indianapolis as well, beating Michigan State, 81-71, on Nov. 18 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the Champions Classic.
A win Monday night against Wisconsin would mean a fifth national championship for Krzyzewski, breaking a tie with Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp and leaving him behind only John Wooden, who won 10 at UCLA.
“It’s an amazing thing, I mean, just to be in the Final Four, but to play on Monday night is the ultimate honor,” Krzyzewski said. “I hope our guys get their rest, and we can get the same type of effort we got tonight.”
Cook already was thinking of Monday night.
“Dreams come true, you know,” he said. “Dreams come true.”
The Blue Devils have won 17 of 18, with the only loss to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
Michigan State shot 40 percent from the field (22 of 55) for the game but the Spartans were just 8 of 27 (29.6 percent) in the first half.
“We got beat,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I feel bad because I don’t think people got to see the team that won 12 of the last 15 games.”
Every Michigan State surge was answered.
“They capitalized on our mistakes,” Trice said. “Anytime we made one, they made us pay for it.”
The loss dropped Izzo to 3-4 in national semifinal games, and he is 1-1 in Indianapolis where the Spartans won it all in 2000.
Seventh-seeded Michigan State was the only non-No. 1 team in the Final Four. The Spartans came in having won eight of their last nine games and in the four tournament games were allowing 61.2 points per game on 33.9 percent shooting. Duke had 61 points — and a 20-point lead — with just under 10 minutes to play.