FINAL FOUR – DUKE 81, MSU 61
The Michigan State Spartans basketball team was on an emotional high and feeling very confident about their chances of bringing home a title following their win in the Elite Eight round a week before against the Louisville Cardinals. Spartans head coach Tom Izzo was working his magic in the month of March once again. On Saturday night, the magic, the confidence, all of it went south real quick when they ran into a wall that goes by the name of the Duke Blue Devils.
Michigan State found themselves up 14-6 roughly four minutes into the start of the game, hitting five of their first seven shot attempts from the field, including a perfect 4-4 from 3-point territory. Three of those four came from guard/forward Denzel Valentine, who finished with a double-double, a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. Then the first media timeout came, and it was all Duke the rest of the way.
Duke came out of the first TV timeout with a 7-0 run. MSU didn’t record their next bucket until the 10-minute mark, and finished the first half converting on only 3 of 20 attempts from the floor following that fast start. They found themselves down by 11 going into halftime, and it only got worse for the Spartans in the second half.
The Blue Devils quickly increased their lead to 17 points within the first five minutes of the second half. Michigan State was only able to cut the deficit to as low as 13 throughout the second half. Whenever the Spartans would get a little momentum, Duke would answer right back with a run of their own, not allowing Michigan State to get within striking distance. The 20-point defeat is the largest NCAA tournament loss for MSU in school history.
In their final games donning the green and white, seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson combined for 28 points. Trice also had 5 assists, while Dawson ripped down 7 rebounds. On most nights for State, those would be good contributions that gives them a chance to win. It simply was not enough on Saturday against the Blue Devils.
The Duke freshman shined on the biggest stage for head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Forward Justise Winslow had a team-high 19 points, including 9-11 from the free-throw line. Center and future NBA lottery pick Jahlil Okafor had 18 points and 6 rebounds, and basically toyed with Michigan State’s big men all game long. Senior leader Quinn Cook also had 17 points in the contest.
Here are some more important numbers recapping last night’s national semifinal:
- Michigan State hit their first four 3-point shots from the field. They finished the game 7-20 from beyond the arc.
- Duke got to the free-throw line 37 times (27-37); Michigan State only attempted 16 free-throws (10-16)
- Duke scored 42 points in the paint, most given up by Michigan State all season. (Second most is 38 points also by Duke in first meeting on 11/18/14)
- Justise Winslow’s defense: He held his shooter to only 3-11 shooting in the game
- Duke scored 19 points off of 14 Michigan State turnovers
- Michigan State committed 28 fouls in the game, as opposed to only 18 for Duke
- Tom Izzo is now 1-9 vs. Coach K; 3-4 in national semifinal games; 95-42 in the month of March
- Michigan State was 0-2 vs. Duke this season, both games in Indianapolis