Duke avoids meltdown with strong second half
Blue Devils turn back Purdue to reach Elite 8
HOUSTON – Duke is done answering questions about its sooner-than-expected exits from the NCAA tournament.
The top-seeded Blue Devils are back in the round of eight for the first time since 2004, with Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer helping them pull away in the second half Friday night for a 70-57 win over Purdue in the South Regional semifinals.
Singler scored 24 points and Scheyer added 18, snapping out of a shooting slump just in time.
The Blue Devils (32-5) had lost in the round of 16 in three of the past five seasons, leading to rumblings about whether the mighty program was losing its edge. Now, they stand one victory from their 11th Final Four appearance under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Coach K snapped at a reporter who referred to the Blue Devils’ recent run of early exits as “meltdowns.”
“What is a meltdown?” Krzyzewski said. “I want to know what a meltdown is. Somebody losing? I don’t know what a meltdown is.”
Duke kept marching through the NCAA tournament while other favorites are falling by the wayside. The Blue Devils and Kentucky are the only No. 1 seeds left after Kansas and Syracuse were upset.
Duke will play third-seeded Baylor in Sunday’s regional final. The Blue Devils have reached the Final Four 10 of the last 11 times they’ve advanced this far.
“It feels good, but we really can’t relax at all,” Scheyer said. “It’s really important to refocus. We can’t enjoy wins right now. After the season, we can look back and enjoy them. But for us, we want to keep moving forward.”
Scheyer, Duke’s leading scorer, was 5 for 18 from the field in Duke’s first two NCAA tournament games. He went 5 for 9 in the second half after missing his first six shots and also went 7 for 8 from the foul line.
It was 31-all with 15 1/2 minutes left before the Blue Devils broke away.
Brian Zoubek grabbed 14 rebounds and Duke dominated the undersized Boilermakers inside, as expected. The absence of injured do-everything forward Robbie Hummel finally caught up with fourth-seeded Purdue (29-6), which lost in the regional semifinals for the second straight season.
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