INDIANAPOLIS For 24 minutes, Duke played Louisville to a draw. Both teams had elaborate, technical game plans to prevent the others offense from doing what it did best. Both teams made adjustments, and the score was knotted.
Then everything started to go wrong for Duke, and it spiraled out of control.
The top-seeded Cardinals took control early the second half in their 85-63 win to earn the last spot in the Final Four. The second-seeded Blue Devils went more than six minutes without a field goal, and Louisville went on a 20-4 run during that stretch.
I believed with everything I had that we were going to win the whole thing, said Dukes Mason Plumlee, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. All it takes is one game and youre out.
Louisville guards Peyton Siva (16 points) and Russ Smith (23) were unstoppable, driving into the lane at will. With the score tied at 42, the duo scored six straight points.
They did a great job using the screens and hitting the open man, Duke guard Quinn Cook said. Smith is probably the best player in the country off the ball screen. Siva did a good job in transition and finding the open man.
Duke had been successful forcing the Cardinals toward the baseline off of screens during the first half and early in the second. But Louisville coach Rick Pitino instructed his team to set screens higher and for his post players to set low screens on Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, preventing them from getting up the court and picking up the ball-handler.
At halftime, he was actually telling us how to adjust, and I was trying to cut him off like, Coach, theyre playing us like this, Siva said. Hes like, Can you listen to me? I got this.
Adding to the Blue Devils defensive issues was 6-foot-11 Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, who started hitting jump shots from the free-throw line and near the top of the key to complement Siva and Smiths drives. A 17-footer from Dieng gave the Cardinals a 13-point lead with 11 minutes, 4 seconds left.
Through the first 16 minutes of the second half, Duke was 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) from the field. The offensive struggles began to feed into the defensive troubles, Plumlee said. Prior to the dry spell that began with the score tied, the offensive had been clicking at a high rate, with Seth Curry scoring eight points within just less than two minutes and Plumlee dunking over Dieng.
Kellys presence made breaking Louisvilles press significantly easier, but foul trouble limited his minutes while the game still was competitive. He picked up his third foul with 8:09 left in the first half and played just eight minutes before halftime. The Cardinals had aimed to get him in foul trouble, and it worked. They also had aimed to limit Curry, who had zero first-half points and finished with 12 with 3-for-9 shooting from the floor.
The first half, though, was defined by Louisville guard Kevin Wares gruesome compound fracture in his right leg. Ware jumped to defend a Tyler Thornton 3-point attempt and collapsed in a heap. Lying on his back right in front of the Louisville bench, his right tibia was sticking through his skin.
After an eight-minute delay, Ware was wheeled off the court on a stretcher with a medical device protecting his shin and covered by a towel. Louisville led 21-20 at that point, with 6:39 left in the half. The Cardinals went into the break with a 35-32 edge.
We did feel like we were in good shape, Plumlee said.
But Pitino made the key adjustment by moving the screens up the floor, essentially the checkmate in the high-level coaching game. The athleticism of Siva and Smith was too much, especially with Kelly in foul trouble, Curry bottled up, and Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon shooting 4-for-21 from the floor.
Ive been doing this for a long time, Krzyzewski said. Man, they were good. Bottom line, theyre really good.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley
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