What worked Friday against Robert Morris worked Sunday against San Diego State. Duke again was smart and selfless and incredibly effective. The Blue Devils beat the Aztecs 68-49 and join N.C. State and North Carolina in the Sweet 16.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been great to the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill region and good to the ACC. Alas, the first game at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sunday was not good to Virginia. The Cavaliers drew a tough matchup against seventh-seeded Michigan State.
The Cavaliers scored the first basket 61 seconds in, a jump shot by London Perrantes, to go ahead 2-0. They would not lead again.
Michigan State came out excited, Virginia business-like. Along with emotion, the Spartans came with another quality – 6-foot Travis Trice. The lone player on the floor who could consistently create his own shot, he scored 13 of Michigan State’s first 15 points (at that juncture Virginia had scored four) and finished with a game-high 23.
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Every time the Cavaliers scored, you felt as if the game should be stopped so somebody could give them a prize. Coming in they shot 46.3 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. Sunday they shot 29.8 percent and 11.8 percent. Open shots were infrequent. Everywhere they went a defender in a green and white jersey was there.
The Cavaliers hustled. They took 17 more shots than the Spartans. It would be reasonable to assume that none of them went in.
Virginia is gone this season, but as long as Tony Bennett coaches the Cavaliers, they will continue to come back. They will lose one senior from the rotation, center Darion Atkins. The other players who enabled them to finish 30-4 will return.
Duke, meanwhile, advances to Houston to play Utah.
Mike Krzyzewski says these Blue Devils are among best offensive teams he has coached in his 35 seasons at Duke.
They proved it against San Diego State. The Aztecs give up an average of 53.5 points a game, second only to Virginia. The Blue Devils scored their 55th point with 7 minutes, 49 seconds to play.
Says Steve Fisher, coach of the tall and athletic and 27-9 Aztecs: “They got it to the rim a little too easy on us with their guards, with their quickness to get by us and get to the rim. That hasn’t happened the way it did tonight.”
You sensed Duke center Jahlil Okafor would play well. As the Blue Devils waited to run onto the court, Magic Johnson walked off it. As he passed the Blue Devils he said hello, hello, shook hands with fans across the aisle from the Duke players, and said hello, hello. When he got to Okafor, he stopped and extended his hand.
Okafor, a 6-11 freshman, used the hand that touched Magic effectively. He used his other hand effectively, too. He took 16 shots, hit 12 and scored 26 points.
Equally outstanding was Justise Winslow, a 6-6 freshman. Winslow scored 13 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and added five assists, four steals and three blocks. And in his spare time? Winslow doesn’t have spare time. He won’t this week. He’s from Houston.
What happens in Houston and beyond?
“We’re healthy, hopefully we stay healthy,” Krzyzewski says. “We weren’t healthy the last couple weeks of the regular season completely. We have great attitudes. The guys aren’t … mentally tired, they’re not physically tired. They’re together. We have talent, we’re getting older by experience, and so we just … got better here, these two games.”
He adds: “It’s a young group of kids that have really had a great season and they still want to get better. So you’ve got a chance. We’ve got a chance.”
They have a chance. If they play defense they way they did in Charlotte, they have a good chance.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen