INDIANAPOLIS — We are halfway to the biggest national title game in the history of college basketball.
The No. 1-seeded Duke Blue Devils made short work of No. 7 Michigan State on Saturday night, a Final Four undercard to the Kentucky-Wisconsin marquee that tips shortly. With a UK win, it would be the first time Kentucky and Duke met in a national title game. And an undefeated season would hang in the balance. But we’ll see what Wisconsin has to say about that.
As for the Blue Devils and Spartans, Duke suppressed Michigan State throughout the second half. Duke freshman forward Justise Winslow played a stellar game, getting 19 points and nine boards. Duke got another 18 points from freshman Jahlil Okafor en route to an 81-61 win. MSU’s Denzel Valentine had a game-best 22 points.
MSU’s 20-point loss becomes the worst in program history in the NCAA Tournament.
Ironically, the night started out so nicely for Michigan State. The Spartans got out to a 14-6 lead, made its first four 3-pointers and looked ready/able for an upset. But Duke’s talent, size and improved defense turned things quickly. By halftime it was already too much of a deficit for Tom Izzo’s team to handle.
The omen arrived when MSU failed to put up a point between the 16:18 and 10:22 mark of the first half.
After the eight-point deficit through the early minutes of the first half, Duke responded with a 16-4 run, which became a 23-6 run. And by the end of the half that run was at 30-11. It didn’t help that Michigan State was hindered big-time by its big men running into foul trouble. Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello each had two fouls by the under-4 media timeout in the first half. Those two and Branden Dawson played out the end of the game with four fouls apiece.
It was a 36-25 game at the break. Sparty went 3 for 20 from the floor after starting 5-of-7. Duke’s advantageous free-throw disparity was also glaring: the Devils took 37 shots from the line; MSU just 16.
Duke was 52 percent from the field. MSU shot 40 percent. Duke’s win is a repeat outcome from earlier this season, when the Blue Devils won over the Spartans, 80-70.
Mike Krzyzewski now owns a 9-1 record against Izzo, who has seven Final Four appearances with two trips to the national championship game (2000, 2009). Izzo won the national title with MSU in 2000, the last time a Big Ten team was the last one standing in the NCAA Tournament. Krzyzewski’s win here means he’s made the national title game in nine of his 12 Final Four appearances.
Duke will play in Monday night’s national championship game, which airs on CBS just after 9 p.m. The previous two times Duke played a national title game in Indianapolis — 2010 and 1991 — it won it all.