Jon Scheyer let the 3-pointer fly right in front of Duke's bench, and Blue Devils from coach Mike Krzyzewski on down followed its arc and held their collective breath.HOUSTON, Texas –
The shot fell, his teammates roared and Duke's offense was rolling again.
The Blue Devils' leading scorer missed 17 of his previous 18 shots before sinking that 3 early in the second half of Duke's 70-57 win over Purdue in the South Regional semifinals Friday night.
The top-seeded Blue Devils (32-5) hit 12 of 22 shots after Scheyer's 3 and will play third-seeded Baylor (28-7) in Sunday's regional final.
"A lot of the burden is on my shoulders to hit open shots," Scheyer said. "For me, that one just got us rolling. That was a big momentum swing, I think."
The 6-foot-5 Scheyer, one of three seniors in the starting lineup, said this week that the Blue Devils are "on a mission" to add another championship to the school's storied tradition. His shooting in the second half against the Boilermakers helped Duke get one step closer.
Scheyer finished with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists against Purdue to help his team move within one victory of its 11th Final Four under Krzyzewski.
"You want to uphold the standard," Scheyer said Saturday. "I know a lot of the guys who've played before me, and they've done some unbelievable things. Of course, you want to be able to graduate and say you did those same things and be able to talk about that with them."
Scheyer ran into a slump late in the season, shooting 31 percent from the field (29 of 93) in the seven games leading up to Friday night. After going 1 for 11 in Duke's second-round win over California, he watched video and picked out some flaws emerging in his form.
"I was just really trying to guide the ball in," he said. "I was kicking my legs out on a couple of them. That's just something I looked at. For me, I just need to shoot the ball strong, like I have in the past."
Krzyzewski also noticed changes in Scheyer's mechanics, but encouraged Scheyer to keep shooting. He thought Scheyer was putting too much pressure on himself and losing his offensive rhythm in the process.
Coach K reminded Scheyer that he sank a crucial 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in Duke's 65-61 win over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. He missed his first six 3-point tries in that game before hitting the one that mattered most.
"I asked him, 'When you took the shot to beat Georgia Tech and win the ACC championship, you know, what were you thinking about then?'" Krzyzewski said. "He said, 'I was just thinking about hitting my shot.' I said, 'Well, just do that.'"
Scheyer appeared to be pressing again in the first half against Purdue, going 0 for 6 from the field. He missed a 3 in the first 90 seconds of the second half before curling around a screen and connecting on the pivotal 3 with 17:54 left.
"It was a huge sigh of relief for everybody," said backcourt mate Nolan Smith, who had 15 points. "Coach jumped up, the bench jumped up. On the court, it really gave us a pep in our step. When he's hitting 3s and when you know he can do it, it gives us all a lift."
Scheyer hit four of his final seven shots against Purdue to reach his highest total since scoring 20 points in the regular-season finale against North Carolina. The Blue Devils shot 58 percent (15 of 26) after the break, their most efficient second half since making 60 percent in a 74-53 home win over Clemson in January.
Not coincidentally, Scheyer scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half of that one.
"We're never going to go away from him. We want him to keep shooting," Smith said. "It makes him more dangerous and teams are definitely scared after he hits one. And that opens up so much more."
Scheyer, Smith and Kyle Singler combine to average 53 points per game, or 69 percent of Duke's scoring.
Singler scored 24 points in Friday's win and has averaged 21 points in three NCAA tournament games. Smith scored 20 against California, then had seven straight points in a key stretch of Friday's victory.
And now Scheyer is shooting well again, the most encouraging sign of all for Duke's championship hopes.
"We thought, in order for us to have a chance to be really good, those three kids had to be really good scorers, and they've been that for us," Krzyzewski said. "If three of them are scoring, then we become much more difficult to beat."
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