The top-seeded Duke advanced to the final eight of the NCAA collegiate basketball tournament but the dreams of Northern Iowa and Saint Mary's ended on Friday. Duke, the No 1 seeds in the South Regional, beat Purdue, the fourth seeds, 70-57, thanks to some strong defensive play and Kyle Singler's 24 points, to make it past the regional semi-finals for the first time in six years.
"Our execution in the second half was terrific," said Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke coach. "All three of my perimeter guys came up with big, big baskets and free throws." Jon Scheyer added 18 points and Nolan Smith had 15 for Duke, who led by a point at the interval but out-scored Purdue 46-34 in the second half. Duke will play Baylor, the third seeds, tonight for a place in the national semi-finals on April 3 in Indianapolis.
It would be Duke's first visit to the national semi-finals, also known as the Final Four, since 2004. They won national championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001. "You know, I hate when somebody compares those teams of the last couple years with our national championship teams, and they say they underachieved," Krzyzewski said. "Are you kidding me? They won 30, 29 games. But they were limited teams, and they couldn't play the defence that this team can play because we have big guys."
Elsewhere, Baylor ended Saint Mary's dream season with a 72-49 victory. Saint Mary's, the 10th-seeds, had been one of the success stories of the tournament after they eliminated Villanova, the region's second seeds, last weekend. LaceDarius Dunn led Baylor with 23 points with Ben Allen, one of five Australians on their roster, leading Saint Mary's with 16. "That's the reason why we came here. To be a part of something special," said Tweety Carter, the Baylor guard. "It really means a lot to me, this team, this programme, for us to come through all the adversity."
Northern Iowa, who stunned the top seeds Kansas in the second round, came agonisingly close to pulling off another upset before going down 59-52 to Michigan State. The Michigan sophomore Korie Lucious effectively ended their dreams of further glory. Lucious played 39 steady minutes, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and one big shot that put his team within one game of their sixth Final Four in 12 years. Lucious hit a fallaway jumper with 91 seconds left, lifting Michigan State into the regional finals. "He stepping up for us and that's exactly what we need," said Draymond Green, the Michigan State forward.
The Spartans play tonight against Tennessee, the sixth seeds, who beat the second-seeded Ohio State 76-73 earlier on Friday night. * With agencies