Duke vs. Baylor
Houston Duke is back in the Final Four, ending an unusually long absence for coach Mike Krzyzewski's team — and keeping No. 1 seeds from being shut out of the title chase.
Nolan Smith scored 29 points and the Blue Devils returned to college basketball's big event for the first time in six years by beating Baylor 78-71 on Sunday in the South Regional final, halting the Bears' charming run to college basketball redemption.
Jon Scheyer added 20 points for Duke (33-5), which became the only No. 1 seed to advance to Indianapolis and earned its 11th Final Four trip under Krzyzewski.
In the national semifinals for the first time since 2004, the Blue Devils will play East Regional champion West Virginia on Saturday night. They have won 11 of their last 12 regional finals under Krzyzewski, but haven't won a national title since 2001.
Coach K made his first Final Four with Duke in 1986 and hadn't had this long of a gap between trips.
"We played against a great team," Krzyzewski said. "It was such a well-played game, and we were fortunate to win."
Smith and Scheyer helped the Blue Devils offset a poor game from junior forward Kyle Singler, who was 0 for 10 from the field and made only five free throws. It was the first time in his college career he failed to hit a field goal.
LaceDarius Dunn had 22 points and Ekpe Udoh scored 18 for the Bears (28-8), whose program was in shambles when coach Scott Drew took over in the wake of murder and scandal less than seven years ago.
Drew took the Bears from tatters to the cusp of their first Final Four appearance in 60 years.
After tying the game for the 12th time on a free throw with 3:36 left, Smith missed his second attempt. But Lance Thomas grabbed one of his nine rebounds and quickly passed the ball right back to Smith, who hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Duke up 64-61.
"I just wanted to make the plays," said Thomas, one of three Duke seniors. "My teammates know I can make them. I made it and I just got the ball to our shooters."
Scheyer, another senior, then extended the lead to six with his fifth 3-pointer.
Tweety Carter and Quincy Acy had 12 points each for Baylor at Reliant Stadium, where most of the crowd of 47,492 was dressed in the green and gold of the Bears.
"Those two 3s in a row, by Nolan and then Jon, those were big-time plays," Krzyzewski said. "The big guys kicked it out and those are the best 3s to take."
And the long-range shots were the best for Duke against Baylor's tenacious zone defense featuring a combination of a 7-footer and a pair of 6-10 players.
The Blue Devils made 11 of 23 3-pointers (48 percent) — and shot only 11 of 38 from inside the arc.
With Baylor desperately trying to get the ball back after a turnover by Carter, there was a scuffle by the sideline following a whistle and Acy was called for a technical foul. Scheyer hit both free throws, pushing the lead to 10 with 1:19 left.
The fairy-tale ending wasn't meant to be for the Bears — at least this year.
Drew was 32 when he was hired and had been a head coach only one season, winning 20 games at Valparaiso after nine years there as his father's assistant. He had to rebuild in the powerful Big 12 with reduced scholarships and a roster decimated by the transfers of the top three scorers after that tragic summer in 2003 when Patrick Dennehy was shot to death by a teammate.
Baylor made it to the NCAA tournament two years ago, when it lost in the first round to Purdue, and to the NIT championship game last April.
The Bears were picked 10th in the preseason poll by the Big 12 coaches at the beginning of this season after losing three 1,000-point scorers to graduation. But they were the last Big 12 team still playing.
After Dunn darted through traffic for a layup and then made two free throws, the Bears were up 57-54 with just under 6 minutes left. Their lead wouldn't last long.
Scheyer missed a 3-pointer, but Mason Plumlee got the rebound and threw the ball right back to the senior guard — who hit from about 25 feet to tie the game.