INDIANAPOLIS (Sporting Alert) — Duke shook off a slow start against Michigan State in their Final Four clash to book a place into the national championship game with an 81-61 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.
Justise Winslow scored 19 points after going 5-for-7 from the floor — nine rebounds and two steals and Jahlil Okafor added 18 points on 7-for-11 from the field — six rebounds, two steals and two blocks for the top-seeded Blue Devils (34-4).
Senior guard Quinn Cook played impressively as well, after going 6-for-12 from the field for 17 points, as Duke won five straight.
The Blue Devils, who rallied from an early 14-6 deficit to dominate the Final Four contest, are making their first NCAA championship game since 2010 when they defeated Butler 61-59.
It will be their 11th trip to the national championships.
“We beat a heck of a team, a championship team, championship program in Tom’s (Izzo) program,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“Our guys knew how difficult a game it was going to be. After the first four minutes, we found out it was going to be more difficult than we even thought. Our kids for the next 36 minutes, they played lights-out basketball.
“The defense was terrific. We drove the ball with such strength. I actually think our offense gave our defense a push in how hard we were taking it to the basket. Our bench, all eight guys, played really well tonight.
“Yeah, the last 36 minutes, we played great basketball. That’s the best we’ve played in a tournament, and we’ve played really well in the tournament,” added Krzyzewski.
Denzel Valentine led the way for Michigan State with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
The junior guard who hit three of his team’s four 3-pointers inside the opening two-and-a-half minutes, was 5-for-9 from long-range, while shooting 7-for-11 from the floor overall.
Travis Trice added 16 points and five assists and Branden Dawson had 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the defeat for the Spartans (27-12).
“We got beat,” Izzo said. “Unfortunately I thought Duke played awfully well, but I thought it wasn’t one of our better games. I think they deserve some credit.
“Yet I feel bad because I didn’t think people got to see the team that has won 12 out of the last 15 games.
“Give Duke credit and give our seniors credit for getting us to a place that most people didn’t think we’d get to.”
As a team, Duke shot 26-for-50 for 52-percent from the field, while Michigan State went 22-for-55 for 42-percent from the floor.
The ACC giants out rebounded their Big Ten rivals 36-33, while Krzyzewski’s team also committed fewer turnovers, at 8, compared to the 14 by Izzo’s ball club.