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Reaching the Final Four Was Never Going to be Easy
Saturday 03/28/2010  -  Michael Tomko, GoDuke.com
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Courtesy: Associated Press
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HOUSTON, TEXAS - Reaching the Final Four was never going to be easy. The Blue Devils have known that all season.

They have done it with their own formula for success all season, priding itself on defense and rebounding.

They lick their lips at the opportunity to hold an opponent's best scorer in check and coming through with big stops.

This team prides itself in its ability to rebound the basketball. These are the dirty jobs that don't get the press clippings that an explosive offense or a high flying scorer does, but the dirty jobs are what the Blue Devils pride themselves in, overcoming tough environments and tough matchups all season.

"When there is crunch time there in the end, we just said 'this is all we've been working for the whole year'," Jon Scheyer said. "We want to be in situations like this. And the five of us looked at each other and said, 'Let's go'."

Today was no different.

The Mike Krzyzewski led Blue Devils overcame a pro-Baylor crowd from Reliant Stadium.

They overcame their first opponent in the NCAA Tournament that was able to matchup with the Blue Devils size and ability to rebound the basketball.

They overcame a team that excels playing a zone defense.

They overcame all of that by taking pride in what has fueled them all season, defense and rebounding.

"I think our offensive rebounding kept us in it and really was the key there to get some separation in the last four minutes," Krzyzewski said.

Down at the half by three, Duke came through with the necessary stops on the defensive end and converted three 3-point plays late to reach its 11th Final Four appearance under Krzyzewski, knocking off Baylor, 78-71.

In a game where there were 12 ties and 11 lead changes, Duke was able to put together a magnificent run late to knock out Baylor.

Tied at 61, the Blue Devils put together an 11-1 run in which their experience in big games paid off converting three straight three point plays, two conventional and one unconventional.

A Lance Thomas rebound off of a missed Nolan Smith free throw ignited the run by the Blue Devils. Thomas's rebound led to a kick out three to Smith for three of his career-high 29 points giving Duke a 64-61 lead.

After Duke stopped Baylor on two consecutive shots on the defensive end, Scheyer, who finished with 20 points, connected on his fifth three pointer of the game, this time with Brian Zoubek assisting on the play.

"Nolan and Jon were fantastic in handling the zone, and then playing defense," Krzyzewski said.

The Bears would add a free throw on their next possession to make it 67-62.

But once again, Duke would convert the big play on their ensuing possession.

Thomas, who had eight of Duke's 23 offensive rebounds, threw home a missed Kyle Singler three pointer while drawing the foul. He would complete the three-point play to push Duke's lead to 70-62.

"It was my first tip dunk of the year, so it was good," Thomas said. "It came at a perfect time."

Singler would come up with a steal for the Blue Devils on Baylor's next trip down, which led Duke calling a timeout with 1:19 remaining and Baylor's Quincy Acy picking up a technical foul for shoving Scheyer after he called timeout.

We kept telling each other: We need stops and we're going to win," Scheyer said. "Mentally you need to stay so tough in that type of game because they keep coming at you."

When it mattered most, Duke stayed poised, composed and came through in the clutch.

The two technical foul free throws by Scheyer put Duke up 10 with 1:19 left, locking up its trip to Indianapolis.

"We kept winning it by a little bit until finally I thought we were at our best in the last two minutes," Krzyzewski said. "Again, that's what I'm proud of for our guys. It wasn't like calling a play or anything, they did it on their own."

"I'm happy," Thomas said. "I am really happy. I don't know the right word to put for this feeling that I have."

Now they are just two wins away from their ultimate goal and proving their formula works.


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