Duke defeats West Virginia in Final Four

MARK CORNELISON / Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader Haddonfield's Brian Zoubek and his Duke teammates stop another ex-New Jersey star, Da'Sean Butler (Bloomfield Tech).
MARK CORNELISON / Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader Haddonfield's Brian Zoubek and his Duke teammates stop another ex-New Jersey star, Da'Sean Butler (Bloomfield Tech).
Posted: April 04, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - Duke was considered to be the weakest No. 1 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, and the experts certainly thought this team would not advance too far.

Well, the Blue Devils not only made it to their 16th Final Four, but they now get a chance at their fourth national championship after knocking off West Virginia, 78-57, in a national semifinal Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Duke (32-6) advanced to a date Monday night with Butler (33-4), which edged Michigan State, 52-50, in the first game of the doubleheader.

The Blue Devils surged to the victory by outpointing the Mountaineers (33-6) in the area that got them this far - offensive rebounding. They outscored West Virginia, 12-0, on second-chance points in the opening half and had 17 before their opponents could score their first two - with 10 minutes, 57 seconds left.

The extra opportunities helped Duke get its lead to 15 with a little more than nine minutes to play and assure the Blue Devils of their first championship-game appearance since 2001, and a chance to add a fourth national title to the resumé of veteran coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia's top scorer and leader on and off the court all season, exited with a left knee injury with 8:59 to play after driving to the basket and colliding with Duke's Brian Zoubek. Butler scored 10 points.

The Blue Devils also benefited from their Big Three of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith having fine games. Scheyer led them with 23 points, followed by Singler with 21 and Smith with 19.

They shot 52.7 from the field and 52 from three-point range. Scheyer knocked down five shots from beyond the arc and Smith hit four.

They had an answer any time West Virginia scored. The Mountaineer fans yelled in encouragement after Casey Mitchell's two free throws with 3:39 to play got their team to within 69-57, but Singler answered with a three-ball 25 seconds later.

West Virginia was the last Big East Conference team of the eight selected to the NCAAs, and the only one to make it past the Sweet 16.

The game took a disturbing turn for the Mountaineers with 8:59 to play when Butler went down in a heap after colliding with the 7-foot-1 Zoubek, a product of Haddonfield High. Butler grabbed his left knee and writhed in pain, and coach Bob Huggins went out to comfort his distraught player.

The Blue Devils, who had led, 39-31, at the half, saw the Mountaineers trim the deficit to five, 43-38, on a pair of free throws by Butler with 16:35 to play. But Duke regained control on back-to-back three-pointers by Nolan Smith and Scheyer.

With a 12-4 run, the Blue Devils extended their lead, making it 63-48 on Scheyer's three-point basket - his fourth of the game - with 9:21 remaining.

The two teams had gotten from the field of 65 to the Final Four with their ability to grab offensive rebounds, and the advantage in this game would be grabbed by the team that could retain its own misses off the boards.

In the first half, that advantage belonged to Duke, an edge that had Huggins loudly lamenting from the bench more than once, "Can we pleased get a rebound?"

The Blue Devils brought down seven offensive rebounds to three for West Virginia, and outscored the Mountaineers, 12-0, on second-chance points. Five players scored on follow-ups, with Smith and Scheyer draining three-pointers.

The offensive rebounding and deep shooting - Duke went 7 of 14 from beyond the arc - gave the Blue Devils a 39-31 lead at halftime.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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