Everyone is against one-and-done’s at least on the outside, but no one minds when they take you into the Final Four, and Duke are riding the wave of freshman success, beating Gonzaga 66-52, led by Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.
Okafor scored just 9 points but it was the defense that made Gonzaga look like a mid-major team that doesn’t really belong competing at this level. The Bulldogs were held to just 0.88 points per possession, their lowest of the season. They’re 8-9 over the last four seasons when averaging less than one point per possession, although it wasn’t as convincing as the final scoreline showed.
Duke held a two-point lead with five minutes remaining, but they held Gonzaga to 0-for-5 from the field the rest of the way while making all of their free throws (8-of-8). The Bulldogs were held to 4-of-23 in their half court offense when attempting jump shots and whenever they didn’t get the ball into the paint, they either turned it over or missed, averaging 0.43 points per play without a touch in the paint.
Duke on the other hand, didn’t make mistakes on offense. No one really stood out, but they turned the ball over three times, which is more than enough when your defense puts on its best performance of the season. It resulted in outscoring Gonzaga 17-2 off of turnovers, and kept the Bulldogs on the list of teams with the most NCAA tournament appearances and yet to make the final four (second with 22 behind Xavier).
Winslow scored 16 points, aided by Matt Jones (also with 16), 15 from Tyus Jones and 10 from Quinn Cook while Okafor finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds. Kyle Wiltjer scored 16 points to lead Gonzaga, but was mostly thinking after the game about the missed layup with five minutes remaining that could have tied the game. You make that thing 499 times out of 500. It was just a fluke. It just didn’t fall in. When that kind of moment happens, you’ve just got to shake your head, and it’s not your night.
Duke now move to fourth on the all-time Final Four appearances list with 16, trailing North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA. For Mike Krzyzewski, it’s his 12th time in the Final Four, tied for the most ever with John Wooden, both of them having a one FF edge over Dean Smith. Tom Izzo, who’ll be coaching the Spartans against coach K in the semifinal, has 7 Final Four berths in East Lansing.
Duke have plenty of glitz and glamour in their lineup but not much of a bench. All 66 points were scored by the starters, two of them (T. Jones and Cook) playing 40 minutes. The four players from the bench, three of them playing just 8 minutes or less, got only one shot off during their time on the court.