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Duke grinds out 66-50 win over Creighton in NCAAs

PHILADELPHIA The Blue Devils and the Bluejays spent all day waiting for their third-round game, which tipped at 9:40 p.m.

The much-vaunted offenses, though, never showed up.

In a game that featured more fouls than field goals, it was the Blue Devils that prevailed, collecting a 66-50 victory to send the program back to the Sweet 16.

The 50 points for the Bluejays represented their lowest output for the season. Creighton was whistled for 26 fouls and made just 16 field goals.

“There’s different flows to games,” Ryan Kelly said. “And that was not the one that anyone expected.”

Seth Curry had 13 of Duke’s first 22 second-half points, slowly but surely keeping the Blue Devils ahead.

“Seth put on a display,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He just got us a working margin of seven, nine points.”

The Bluejays entered the NCAA tournament as the nation’s second-best shooting team, making 51 percent of their shots from the floor. They finished 16-for-53, 30.2 percent. Doug McDermott, a two-time All-American and one of the nation’s most prolific scorers, finished 4-for16 from the floor. A 12-for-12 mark from the free-throw line pushed his total to 21 points. He did not hit a field goal after the 5-minute, 26-second mark in the first half.

Rasheed Sulaimon led Duke with 21 points. Curry had 17.

Whistles were frequent, and it didn’t take long into the second half for both teams to have serious foul concerns. Mason Plumlee picked up his third in the first 30 seconds and his fourth with 17:48 on the clock. Doug McDermott, who had zero fouls in the first half, had three in the first four minutes of the second. Creighton point guard Grant Gibbs and center Gregory Echenique also had three by the 15:53 mark.

Josh Hairston picked up his third and fourth fouls within a span of two seconds, but he remained on the floor. On the ensuing possession, Curry, who had four first-half points, began a personal 7-2 run.

Curry hit his first 3 of the game, extending Duke’s fragile lead to 37-32. After two long-range misses from Jahenns Manigat, Curry converted a layin off of an under-the-basket inbounds to make it a 39-32 Duke advantage.

At the 13:25 mark, Kelly was whistled for his fourth foul. And Plumlee, with four fouls of his own, came in to replace him.

Two Curry free throws minutes later gave Duke 41-32 lead, tying its largest of the game at that point.

The next offensive moment in the game came on an Amile Jefferson putback, which handed Duke its first double-digit lead with 10:29 left. The Philadelphia native provided 11 key minutes off the bench.

Hairston was the first to foul out with 9:10 left on the clock. Curry countered with another layup, extending Duke’s lead to 45-34.

Duke’s most prolific offensive stretch came with about seven minutes remaining in the game. Curry hit a 3, Kelly missed—he didn’t hit a field goal all night—but then Sulaimon hit a jumper and a 3, stretching the lead to 54-42 with 4:16 left.

Gibbs fouled out with 3:03 left in the game. Kelly hit the one of the ensuing free throws – his first point of the game. Duke led 57-44.

Plumlee fouled out on the ensuing possession, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.

McDermott’s biggest contributions were the fouls he drew on defense. Kelly was whistled for his second foul with 11:29 left in the first half, both coming on McDermott. With 7:48 left on the clock, Plumlee, too, had collected his second foul as he took his turn on McDermott. Both Plumlee and Kelly played with two fouls (Hairston was collected two of his own in reserve work), but Kelly went to the bench for good when he was whistled for his third with 3:19 left in the opening period, as he bumped a driving Austin Chatman as he went by.

Creighton took a 21-20 lead after Kelly’s third foul. Duke ended the first half on a 9-2 run, as Tyler Thornton sank a running 3-pointer as time expired.

That was the most prolific offensive moment in the game. But for Duke, that was enough.

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