Duke faced its biggest deficit of the tournament in the first five minutes of the game, but that never fazed Coach K and company. Duke controlled the last 10 minutes of the first half, and the second half was more of the same. The Blue Devils beat the Spartans, 81-61, to reach Monday night’s national championship game.
Michigan State had a great run in the tournament, coming up just short. Duke just looked like it was on a different level in this one. Michigan State struggled to defend without fouling. Duke was able to shoot 37 free throw attempts compared to the Spartans’ 16 attempts. Coach K improved his record to 9-1 against Tom Izzo.
Michigan State jumped out to a quick 14-6 lead after three Denzel Valentine 3-pointers. But then Duke turned it on and never looked back. Duke was able to take its first lead on a Jahlil Okafor put-back dunk, and Michigan State would never claim the lead again. Michigan State sputtered offensively to close the half, making only three of their last 20 shots. Duke closed the first half on a 30-11 run to take the lead, 36-25. Michigan State just could never get back in the game after the stretch that ended the first half. The closest the Spartans cut it to in the second half was 13.
Okafor refused to be denied in this one. He was able to use his strength down low and provided the Duke offense with two huge and-1s. Okafor finished the game with 18 points, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor. Michigan State struggled all night trying to match up with the potential first pick of the NBA draft. The big man was also able to defend without fouling, not picking up a foul until the second half. Okafor also pulled down six rebounds and two blocks. He was simply too much for the Spartans to handle.
Strange, Yet True
Duke only has eight scholarship players on its team, with four of them being freshman.
Duke moves on to the national championship to face the winner of the Kentucky-Wisconsin game.
Michigan State’s season comes to an end with a 27-12 record.