Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith celebrate following Smith’s big three-point basket that forced Purdue to take a timeout midway through the second half.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
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HOUSTON, Texas – The situation called for old-school, playground basketball, and Duke's best three players were ready to deliver.
A masterful defensive performance by fourth-seeded Purdue had frustrated Duke's scorers in the South Regional semifinals, so the Blue Devils went to Plan B.
Top-seeded Duke abandoned its motion offense to have Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler lower their shoulders and drive to the basket, sparking the Blue Devils to a 70-57 win to advance to the regional final on Friday night.
Scheyer, who missed all six of his first-half field-goal attempts, virtually abandoned his jump shot to score 16 of his 18 points after halftime. Smith added 11 of his 15 points after the half, including seven in a span of 1 minute, 22 seconds that broke open the game with eight minutes remaining.
Singler, whose 11 first-half points kept the Blue Devils in the game early, finished with a game-high 24 points as Duke (32-5) advanced past the regional semifinals for the first time in six years.
The Blue Devils will play No. 3 seed Baylor (28-7) at 5:05 p.m. EDT on Sunday for the right to go to the Final Four for the first time since 2004.
It was Smith who finally broke Purdue. With Duke ahead by two points, Smith drove for consecutive baskets. Then, on a rare fast-break opportunity, Scheyer found Smith open in front of the Duke bench.
Smith swished a three-pointer to complete his own run of seven points in 82 seconds. Duke led 49-40 with eight minutes remaining. As Purdue called timeout, Scheyer and Smith leaped in the air to bump chests.
The Blue Devils' first trip to a regional final in six years was just about clinched.