Duke Blue Devils Snag Final Four Berth with 66-52 Win Over Gonzaga Bulldogs

Duke Blue Devils Snag Final Four Berth with 66-52 Win Over Gonzaga Bulldogs

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  • The Duke Blue Devils beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 66-52, on March 29.
  • Duke will take on the Michigan State Spartans in the NCAA Final Four.

The Duke Blue Devils advanced to the 2015 NCAA Final Four with a 66-52 win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs on March 29.

The Duke Blue Devils are advancing to the 2015 NCAA Final Four. 

Duke snatched a Final Four berth by way of a 76-62 win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs in their Elite Eight Matchup in front of 20,744 rabid fans at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Tex. on March 29, per The Raleigh News & Observer’s Laura Keeley. 

According to USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell, this will be Duke head men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 12th Final Four appearance and his first in five years. The Blue Devils managed to win by 14 points despite shooting just 37.5 percent from the field, per ESPN stats. 

They even shot a paltry 2 of 16 in the first half, says USA Today’s Eric Prisbell. 

With the exception of guard Matt Jones, who shot 6 of 10 from the floor, Duke’s starting five combined for just 15-of-45 (33.3 percent shooting). All-American and projected NBA first-round draft pick Jahlil Okafor was the lone starter who failed to crack double-figure scoring, tallying just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. He did finish with eight rebounds, per ESPN.

In contrast, the Zags shot 44 percent from the field. Forward Kyle Wiltjer was their top scorer with 16 points, per ESPN. Gonzaga’s bench outscored Duke’s 13-0. Domantas Sabonis, son of former Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis, led the charge for the Zags off the bench with nine points. 

Gonzaga won the battle of the boards, 35-31, per ESPN.

How did Duke manage to win? 

There were two telling storylines which helped the Blue Devils pull off the victory: three-point shooting and turnovers. 

Despite the Blue Devils’ less-than-stellar overall shooting clip, they outshot the Zags 42.1 percent (8 of 19) to just 20 percent (2 of 10), per ESPN. Jones was Duke’s main sniper, finishing with four triples. 

In terms of turnovers, Duke finished with just three while forcing Gonzaga to commit 13. According to ESPN, Zags center Przemek Karnowski turned the ball over four times while Sabonis had three of his own. 

The Blue Devils’ established an early 11-point lead but the Zags fought back. Wiltjer, the former Kentucky Wildcat, scored 13 points in the first half but was limited to just three in the second, per ESPN. 

However, it was Duke forward and Houston native Justise Winslow who made the difference in the end game. First, he sank two free throws to give the Blue Devils a 57-51 lead with just three minutes and 38 seconds left to play, per Keeley.

On the ensuing Gonzaga possession, Keeley came down with the rebound and drilled a triple to to up Duke’s lead to nine at 60-51 with 2:48 on the game clock, per The Raleigh News & Observer. 

“He’s the last guy I would want to guard,” Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer told Keeley. “He’s attacking all the time. And because of that, he can shoot, so it’s pick your poison a little bit.”

Keeley adds the Blue Devils knew Wiltjer wouldn’t be able to cover Winslow on defense. The former then tried to guard Jones, to no avail. 

Duke guard Quinn Cook told raved about Jones’ three-point marksmanship in an interview with The Raleigh News & Observer:

“A three-point assassin. He is so good on defense that he gets caught into the glue-guy perception and a defensive specialist, but that’s what he came to Duke for, to be a shooter and just play his butt off.”

Wiltjer also gave credit to the Blue Devils’ hustle, per Keeley.

“They were just scrappy and poking at the ball,” Wiltjer quipped. “They denied, did a lot of switching. Kind of got us out of a rhythm.”

The Blue Devils will next take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Final Four in Indianapolis on April 4 at 6:09 p.m. ET, per ESPN. 

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