The first Final Four game, pitting Duke vs. Michigan St. is over.
Duke (34-4) defeated Michigan St. (27-12) 81-61 to advance to the Championship game on Monday, April 6 against the winner of the second Final Four game, pitting Wisconsin against Kentucky.
Duke’s freshman dynamic duo, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor, led Duke’s dominant win. Winslow scored 19 points on 5 of 7 shooting and had nine rebounds. Okafor scored 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting and six rebounds. Senior Quinn Cook chipped in an additional 17 points, according to ESPN.
The only bright spot for Michigan St. was early in the game, when the Spartans took a 14-6 lead four minutes into the game. After that, Duke went on a 30-9 run to take a 36-25 halftime lead, and their defense made sure they would stay ahead.
As for Okafor, this was the first game in the tournament that he did not face many double-teams. It also helped that Duke didn’t need to depend on Okafor specifically, since Duke shot 52 percent from the floor and capitalized numerous times on their ability to spread the floor then penetrate to the basket.
Okafor still gave Duke a terrific showing, constantly getting the Spartans in early foul trouble and outrebounding Branden Dawson, the leading rebounder for Michigan St. for the season, late in the game to secure the win. Duke kept the Spartans at bay with timely dunks from Grayson Allen and Okafor.
According to the Bleacher Report, Duke will now head to the Championship game for the ninth time under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke has won four NCAA titles. In the NCAA tournament, when ranked no. 1, Duke is 34-0 when playing sixth-seeded teams or lower. Also, Krzyzewski is 9-1 lifetime against Michigan St. head coach Tom Izzo, including 3-1 in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan St. was led by Denzel Valentine with 22 points. Travis Trice scored 16. The Spartan’s major weakness through the tournament, free throw shooting, cost them mightily in the semifinal game. While Duke shot 27 of 37 at the foul like for a 73 percent day, Michigan St. could only muster 10 of 16 for the game for a 62.5 percent.
Michigan St. wanted to make sure they kept Duke from gaining an advantage at the three point line, and did well there, holding Duke to 20 percent (2 of 10). However, Duke was able to find numerous passing and driving lanes directly to a basket, something Michigan St. could not contain.
Michigan St. came into the game the only team of the Final Four teams not ranked no. 1 in their region. The Spartans were ranked no. 7 in their region.
[Image courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]