ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

INDIANAPOLIS -- Maybe this is why Nolan Smith, John Scheyer and Kyle Singler are known around the Duke campus as the Big Three.

Maybe it's because they hit more big 3s than any other trio in college basketball, especially when the opponent is West Virginia and the stage was Saturday's NCAA tournament semifinals.

Riddling the Lucas Oil Stadium nets for seven 3-pointers in the opening half and six in the second, the Blue Devils defeated the Mountaineers 78-57 to advance to Monday night's NCAA title game against Butler, which nipped Michigan State 52-50 in the opening semi.

Three-pointers weren't all the Devils did, of course. In the game's first 30 minutes they outrebounded the gritty Mountaineers 26-21. They outscored them 12-0 in second-chance points in the opening half. They led by 13 at one point before settling on a 39-31 halftime cushion. They led by double figures for at least 15 of the game's final 20 minutes.

This is why the Blue Devils (34-5) entered the weekend with the most wins (33) of the four participants and the favorite's role, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

This is also why Duke coach Mike Krzezewski says, "This is a very good basketball team," even if he admits it lacks the star power of any of his three previous national champions.

But as every one of this year's Final Four teams proved throughout the season, this was at least one collegiate season when how you played the game was at least as important as the players you played it with.

In constant motion from the opening tap, the Blue Devils repeatedly freed up their Big Three inside the final eight seconds of every 35-second shot clock possession to get open jumpers or drives against the Mountaineers.

The result was 55 percent field-goal shooting for most of the night against a West Virginia defense that was holding opponents to under 34 percent for the tourney.

And on those rare occasions the Blue Devils did miss, they often got the offensive rebound -- especially 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek, who claimed 10 total rebounds, half of them offensive, against the shorter Mountaineers.

Then, to add injury to insult, West Virginia lost its best player, senior wing Da'Sean Butler, to an apparent knee injury midway through the second half.

In one of the classiest moves of the tournament, the Duke student body began chanting his name as he lay on the floor with Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins huddled over him, trying to console his fallen leader.

By the time his teammates lifted Butler to his feet, his left leg off the floor, and carried him off the court, much of the crowd of 71,298 -- the second largest crowd ever to witness a Final Four game -- was joining the Duke students in saluting the player.

But with or without Butler, the Mountaineers were no match for the Blue Devils.

Whether Butler the team can be on Monday night is another matter.

"This was just a great team effort tonight," said Scheyer, who led Duke with 23 points, two more than Singler and four more than Smith.

"We won the way we always do, with defense and rebounding."

And at least a few big 3s from the Big Three.

Next Article

Durham scores three


Previous Article

Injury will long haunt WVU

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT