Lance Thomas grabbed eight offensive rebounds in Sunday’s win over Baylor.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
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HOUSTON, Texas — It's the inherent risk for any team that plays a zone defense: the susceptibility of being beaten to the rebound.
It's a calculated bet a coach makes — and one Baylor coach Scott Drew lost Sunday as Duke defeated the Bears, 78-71, and advanced to the Final Four to face West Virginia.
"We just couldn't keep them off the glass," Baylor's Ekpe Udoh said.
The Blue Devils had 23 offensive rebounds, leading to 23 second-chance points, to reach their first Final Four since 2004.
"It was big-time," Duke forward Lance Thomas said of the offensive rebounds. "They couldn't really rotate over to get rebounds, especially with the shot-blockers they had. If we penetrated the zone, one guy would've been open for the rebound."
One of the oft-heard knocks on the Blue Devils in recent years is that they're too soft. Push them, they won't push back. But that wasn't the case against a physical Baylor team — and Thomas had the scars to prove it.
A 4-inch scratch across his forehead, a side effect of his eight offensive rebounds, was something he didn't mind displaying.
"It was that physical out there," Thomas said. "Scratches are the least of what I have."
Thomas had two of the biggest offensive rebounds of the game. The first came with the score tied at 61 and Nolan Smith (game-high 29 points) at the free-throw line.
Smith missed, and Thomas fought his way through to grab the rebound. He passed to Kyle Singler, who kicked it back out to Smith for a three-pointer that gave Duke a 64-61 lead with 3:33 remaining.
Duke was up by five with 1:40 to play when Thomas flew down the lane after a Singler miss, grabbed the rebound above the rim and slammed it home as the Blue Devils' long-delayed celebration began.
"It was my first tip dunk of the year," Thomas said.
The rebounds were the reason Duke was able to overcome a 22-for-61 performance from the field, including an 0-for-10 effort from Singler.
Jon Scheyer had five three-pointers for Duke and finished with 20 points.
As Thomas spoke, he clutched a piece of the net the Blue Devils cut down after the game. After five seasons in which they failed to reach the Final Four — an eternity in Blue Devils time — Duke is right back where it belongs.