PHILADELPHIA -- Duke's been down this road before.
Jason Williams scored 28 points and Shane Battier added 20 points and 10 rebounds as Duke beat Southern California 79-69 Saturday night to advance to its 13th Final Four and ninth under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
When the final buzzer sounded, Battier ran and hugged freshman Chris Duhon.
"Chris was the closest guy around so I grabbed him because I was looking for anyone to hug at that point," said Battier, a senior making his second trip to a Final Four. "It's something in my old age I've come to appreciate on the last time around."
The opponent next weekend in Minneapolis will be very familiar - the Blue Devils will face Maryland for the fourth time this season. The Atlantic Coast Conference schools both won regional finals over teams from the Pac-10, with the Terrapins beating Stanford 87-73 in the West.
Duke (33-4) won two of the three games against Maryland, but each win was by two points, while Maryland's victory was by 11.
It will be the second straight year teams from the same conference meet in the semifinals. Michigan State and Wisconsin of the Big Ten did it in 2000.
"I'm very happy for our conference and for Gary (Williams) and his staff," Krzyzewski said, referring to the Terrapins coach who's making his first appearance in a Final Four. "Two teams in the Final Four from our conference, that's absolutely terrific."
The Blue Devils are 9-1 in regional finals under Krzyzewski and the latest win has them back in the Final Four for the second time in three years.
Their last national championship came in 1992 and it was on the same trip as this year's run - the first and second rounds in Greensboro, N.C., the regionals in Philadelphia and the Final Four in Minneapolis.
"Regional championship games, I always felt, are the toughest games to win," Krzyzewski said. "You've reached the promised land and once you're there you have a chance to get the ultimate prize.
"I've always been fortunate in those games. Big players have stepped up. Tonight, really, a freshman stepped up, not that Shane and Jason weren't terrific, but to see Chris Duhon drive us to a Final Four was very gratifying for me."
Duhon finished with 13 points.
The Trojans (24-10) were looking for their third Final Four berth and first since 1954.
Duke's two All-Americans, Battier and the sophomore guard Williams, ended those dreams with two more great performances in the NCAA tournament.
Battier had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the four games, while Williams' 28 points against Southern Cal was one off his average over the first three games.
Battier and Williams combined for all but 10 of Duke's 43 first-half points as the Blue Devils took a five-point lead.
Then each time the Trojans seemed ready to make a run, the Blue Devils had an answer.
Three times Southern Cal was within seven points. The last two times Williams scored to put Duke back up by at least nine.
The final killer for the Trojans came from Duhon.
Sam Clancy, who led Southern California with 19 points, hit a turnaround with 5:47 left to make it 67-59. Battier missed a shot on the next possession but Duke kept the ball when a foul was called.
After taking the inbounds pass, Duhon hit a 3-pointer from in front of the Duke bench to make it 70-59 with 5:17 to play. The Trojans were never closer than eight points the rest of the way and Duhon added another 3 with 2:59 to play as the shot clock was winding down.
"The guy who was guarding me kept leaving me and it was like, `I dare you to shoot,"' Duhon said. "Once I hit that first one I had a lot of confidence flowing through my blood and my teammates kept kicking them to me and I kept letting them go."
Battier had confidence in his teammate.
"By no stretch of the imagination is this a two-man team," he said. "Tonight they wanted to leave Chris open and Chris showed why he's a spectacular player."
Southern California coach Henry Bibby admitted leaving Duhon open was part of the game plan.
"We thought they had two players who could beat you. We played the percentages," he said. "Duhon's a good player on the number one team. He should make some buckets.
"I'm very proud of these guys. All along I said when we had three or four players playing we could play with anyone in the country."
Duke started the game by hitting 10 of its first 15 shots, but Southern California's matchup zone had a lot more success in the second half.
The Blue Devils missed 17 of their first 24 shots in the final 20 minutes, but it seemed Williams or Battier came up with a big play to offset the shooting slump.
Mike Dunleavy added 11 points for Duke. David Bluthenthal had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Trojans, while Brian Scalabrine added 13 points.
Duke's biggest lead of the first half came at 32-20 when Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer with 7:50 to play, the Blue Devils' last field goal for 5:10.
A layup by Duhon ended the drought and made it 40-30, but Scalabrine hit consecutive 3s for the Trojans to make it 40-36 with 1:08 left. Duke got the lead back to 43-36, but Desmon Farmer's drive with 23 seconds left brought Southern California within five points at halftime.
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us