College Basketball

Duke advances to Elite Eight with 63-57 win over Utah

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski goes to slap hands with Duke forward Justise Winslow near the end of the Blue Devils’ 63-57 win over Utah in the semifinals of the NCAA South Region at the NRG Stadium in Houston .
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski goes to slap hands with Duke forward Justise Winslow near the end of the Blue Devils’ 63-57 win over Utah in the semifinals of the NCAA South Region at the NRG Stadium in Houston . cliddy@newsobserver.com

Right when Duke needed a change of momentum with time running short, Justise Winslow provided it.

In Duke’s 63-57 victory – made close by late fouls – the Houston product, playing in front of a crowd of family and friends, drove to the basket and drew a foul. His shot sank, sending him to the line and Mike Krzyzewski a few steps onto the court to give him a high-five. The ensuing free throw gave Duke a 52-43 lead and Winslow 21 points for the game.

Winslow grabbed the rebound on the ensuing Delon Wright miss, setting up two Tyus Jones free throws that extended the lead back to double digits.

The win sends Duke, the top seed in the South Region, to the Elite Eight. A Sunday date with No. 2 Gonzaga will decide which team goes to the Final Four.

Right when it looked like Utah might be slipping into the danger zone, Amile Jefferson changed that to an all-caps proclamation.

Jefferson’s one dribble and finish of a two-handed slam certainly marked danger for the Utes. It was a 47-34 Duke lead and forced a Utah timeout with 8 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the game. As Jefferson came to the sideline, he pounded his chest, mobbed by teammates. Duke ran its lead to as large as 15 before the Utes found a burst of offense to close the deficit to 49-43 with less than four minutes to play.

That’s when Winslow rose to the occasion, as the Duke freshmen have so often this season.

The hometown Winslow received the largest cheer in pregame introductions, and he made Duke’s 3 3-pointers – though getting beat down the floor after celebrating the last one got him temporarily benched – and recorded two highlight-worthy blocks early. He finished with 21 points, on 8-of-13 shooting, and 10 rebounds

That helped overcome off nights from many of Winslow’s teammates – Quinn Cook didn’t hit double figures until late in the game (finishing with 11 points) and Okafor was held to fewer than 10 points for just the second time this year, finishing with six.

The Dome atmosphere may have contributed to the Utes shooting just 29.6 percent in the first half (8 of 27 from the floor). It took the Utah guards until the 7:16 mark of the first half to score their first points, courtesy of a Delon Wright dunk that made it 16-12 Duke.

Foul trouble become a concern for both teams late in the first half. The Utes’ do-everything point guard Delon Wright, picked up his third foul with 4:59 left until the break, with Utah down just 19-17. After Wright sat down, though, the Blue Devils ran out on an 8-0 run (making the score 27-17), breaking out a press that helped force four Utes turnovers in quick secession.

Duke had foul trouble of its own, though. It took until there was 2:05 left in the half for the Utah frontcourt to daw Okafor into a foul – but then he picked up his second one about 30 seconds later. Marshall Plumlee, the Blue Devils’ only other true post player, was tagged with his second personal foul with 1:01 remaining until the break. And Winslow picked up foul No. 2 with 33 seconds left in the half.

Against a shorthanded Duke frontcourt, the Utes ended the half on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 27-22 – a notable accomplishment without Wright.

Wright was able to stay on the floor in the second half, but he continued to struggle offensively. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

There was no long celebration for the Blue Devils at the final buzzer – it was business as usual.

Keeley: 919-829-4556;

Twitter: @laurakeeley

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