Everyone knew that Duke vs MSU was going to happen. Before the seeds were even announced, everyone knew. It was always going to be this way and it was always going to be a classic game. Both teams came out punching back and forth. The Blue Devils pushed the lead to 7 points several times but the Spartans wouldn’t go away quietly. The Spartans did the bulk of their damage from the 3-point line where they shot 70% in the first half. The Blue Devils conversely did their damage within the arc and from the free throw line hitting on 6-6 in the half and shooting 53% from the field overall. Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams combined for 22 of Duke’s 39 points at the half going 10-14.
Duke came out again strong building a 9 point lead but every time it seemed as if the Devils would put the Spartans away and build a good working margin they managed to misfire either offensively and defensively and Tom Izzo’s team took advantage. The Spartans used their toughness on the glass grabbing 7 offensive rebounds and turning that into 11 points. The Blue Devils went cold and saw their lead evaporate. The Spartans had the momentum and they wouldn’t relinquish it until the waning minutes.
The Blue Devils down 5 at the 5:20 mark, needed to take a stand and it had to be on the defensive end if they were going to survive and advance. This hasn’t been something the Blue Devils have done with any sort of regularity this season but there was no panic tonight. The Blue Devils played to win. Duke toughened up and went on a 20-6 run to put away the Spartans. The run began with a tough Paolo Banchero layup, followed by a Jeremy Roach layup. With Duke now down 3 freshman Trevor Keels, who’d been struggling for the Blue Devils nailed a 3 pointer to tie the game at 72. MSU’s A.J. Hoggard then muscled his way into the lane for a tough layup to put MSU back up 2. The next time down Keels drove the ball to the rim and was rewarded with a pair of free throws which he split. With the Blue Devils once again down 1 Paolo Banchero once again went to work in the lane for 2 points. Jeremy Roach gave the Blue Devils some separation at the 1:16 mark with a 3 point shot on what looked like a bust4d possession. Runs are obviously measured in points but for Duke it was about stops and securing the defensive exchange. Duke did that down the stretch and that included two blocked shots – one by Mark Williams who swatted 5 for the game and the other by freshman Paolo Banchero.
Paolo Banchero scored 19 points to lead the Blue Devils, Banchero also pulled down 7 boards and dished 4 assists. Mark Williams led the Blue Devils in rebounds pulling down 8 to go along with his 15 points. Huge for the Blue Devils in this game was point guard play. Sophomore Jeremy Roach came up big for the Blue Devils scoring 15 points including a huge 3 pointer in the second half to extend Duke’s lead. Wendell Moore Jr. also added 15 for Duke setting the pace by getting to the free throw line where he went 9-10. Moore also added 4 assists and 2 steals.
The Blue Devils will face Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 after they defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to advance.