Everyone in Duke nation didn’t think it would be easy to get to the Sweet Sixteen with Texas in the way. They are big, and they matched up well with Duke in most positions. The one factor that put Duke over the top? They simply wanted it more, and worked their asses off to get it. If you try to count the number of big plays that were made in this game, you would probably run out of fingers. Sometimes in the tournament you need people to step up when the game is on the line if you want to advance. And in the this one, there was no shortage of that.
What really set the tone for Duke was the defense. Sure Texas shot 50% from the field, but they were 25% from 3pt. And the player that Duke needed to stop the most, AJ Abrams, had a quiet 17 points and always had a hand in his face. Duke wasn’t going to let the Texas star beat them, and they contained just about everyone else in a really superb effort. And typical of most Duke victories, they had only 9 turnovers and forced 15.
The Big Three for Duke came up with some great plays, and really played solid the entire game. Henderson had a rough night shooting, but was 10-13 from the charity stripe and hit the two free throws that sealed the game. He finished with 24 points on 7-21 shooting. Singler is really shooting the ball well from all spots on the floor. He had 17 on 50% shooting, and an unbelievable clutch tip in that set the Devils up to win this one. Scheyer once again was very solid. He looked a little rough at the point a few possessions, but never let it hurt the team. In the end he scored 13 on 4-9 shooting. With him shooting the ball so well lately, he needs to be more aggressive and try to create for himself. And in the play that saved the game for Duke, when the ball was going out of bounds, Scheyer with his back to the court threw the ball behind his back to the other end of the floor. Elliot Williams showed great awareness running it down and drawing the foul that would lead to the final sequence.
Elliot missed the two free throws that would of sealed the game, but him and David McClure stepped up big time, tipping the ball back to Henderson who was more than capable of shutting this one out.
It was such a terrific team effort to gut this one out. Duke probably could of put it away earlier, but give credit to Texas. They were a tough team for Duke to match up against, and they fought to the bitter end. Duke showed great poise, and gutted out a huge victory that sends them back to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in two years. I challenge anyone to find something not to love about this team. They find ways to win big games, and that is how championships are one.
Duke moves on now to play a Villanova team that had a field day against UCLA. Another tough team that Duke will have to face to advance. No one every said that being a great team would be easy, and Duke will have to earn it by playing harder than anyone else. But for a few days we get to celebrate getting past the first weekend that has plagued us in the past couple years. Oh how I missed this feeling.