College Basketball

Duke into the Final Four with 66-52 win over Gonzaga

Duke’s Amile Jefferson (21) and Jahlil Okafor are all smiles as they walk off the court after the Blue Devils beat Gonzaga 66-52 for the NCAA South Region championship and a berth in the Final Four.
Duke’s Amile Jefferson (21) and Jahlil Okafor are all smiles as they walk off the court after the Blue Devils beat Gonzaga 66-52 for the NCAA South Region championship and a berth in the Final Four. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Duke is going to the Final Four.

The Blue Devils booked their ticket to Indianapolis with a 66-52 win over Gonzaga Sunday in Houston.

After Matt Jones converted a lay-up with 45 seconds left, giving the Blue Devils a 66-52 lead, Mike Krzyzewski turned around to his family in the stands behind him and yelled, “We’re going to the Final Four!”

Yes, they are.

Hometown boy Justise Winslow made the critical plays at the end of the game to make it so.

Coming out of the final media timeout, Winslow sank two free throws to give Duke a 57-51 lead with 3:38 left on the clock. At the other end, Winslow came down with the defensive rebound, and then he sank a 3-pointer at the other end to give Duke a 60-51 lead with 2:48 left.

This wasn’t just any other game, as the Duke coaches, whose default setting is intense, found another level on that scale, pounding on the floor, cursing fate and fist-pumping through the air with the force of a knockout punch.

It was the Bulldogs that came out with a verve in the second half, scoring five quick points to even the score at 31-31 and force a Mike Krzyzewski timeout.

The pressure palpably picked up on Duke after Jahlil Okafor airballed a free throw with 17:17 left on the clock. About a minute later, it was a Quinn Cook bank shot that stopped the bleeding for Duke, cutting the Gonzaga lead to 38-36.

In addition to Cook, it was an unlikely hero for the Blue Devils—Matt Jones—who made three momentum-grabbing 3-pointers in the second half. Gonzaga knew that Kyle Wiltjer, who played tremendously on offense, wouldn’t be able to guard with Justise Winslow. So the Bulldogs tried to hide him on Jones—and Jones made them play.

A 9-0 run by Duke in the middle of the second half—featuring a Gonzaga scoring drought about five minutes and four turnovers—ultimately gave the Blue Devils the advantage they would need.

Keeley: 919-829-4556;

Twitter: @laurakeeley

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