INDIANAPOLIS – Duke is one step closer to winning its first national championship since 2010.
And that one was in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, too.
The top-seeded Blue Devils made it look easy Saturday night. They led by 11 at the half and built the lead to 20 on three occasions in the second half including the final y as Duke raced to an 81-61 victory over No. 7 seed Michigan State.
Duke (34-4) will now await the winner of the Kentucky-Wisconsin game later tonight to find out which team it will face in Monday’s NCAA championship game scheduled for 9:18 p.m. ET.
The Blue Devils shot 52 percent from the field.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team beat a championship program in Michigan State.
“Our guys knew how difficult a game it was going to be,’’ Krzyzewski said. “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 the tournament, and we've played really well in the tournament.’’
Duke made 27-of-37 free throws compared to 10-of-16 for the Spartans. Michigan State was whistled for 28 fouls compared to 18 for the Blue Devils. Duke reached the double bonus in both halves. In the second half, it got there with 9:53 to play.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wasn’t happy with a lot of the touch fouls he felt were called on the Spartans.
“I think it’s just a drive and get fouled,’’ Izzo said. “You know, you’re not allowed to touch anybody anymore. I was here when we had smash mouth basketball. I totally agree. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. But also don’t think – I don’t think anybody wants to see the best players on the bench.
“I mean I don’t blame the officials. I blame me. I’m on the board. It’s not as much fun to coach when you’re constantly telling guys, ‘Don’t touch them. Don’t move.’ We had some fouls we deserved, but there were to me probably some right calls, but bizzare.’’
But Izzo has never been one to spend a lot of time talking about the officiating. After his little rant, he was quick to point out that he was tired of talking about fouls.
“We got our butts beat,’’ Izzo said. “I still say most of it was our fault. They didn’t turn the ball over, the officials or the rules. They didn’t take bad shots. We did. As proud as I am of my team, I’m disappointed about that. That’s just the way it is.
“I’m not wired real good to say that we did everything right and Duke just played good. Duke played good, Michigan State didn’t play good. There are reasons both ways.’’
The Blue Devils only attempted 10 3-points shots and hit two for the game. But they dominated the paint by a 42-26 count.
“I think they came into the game taking away our threes,’’ Krzyzewski said. “They did a good job of it. But it opened up some driving lanes. Once we started driving, you know, we put them in some foul trouble because we were trying to drive every time. We got a few steals where they fouled us in transition, which got us into the bonus earlier. But it changed. We didn't come into the game thinking we would drive that much. But we came into the game thinking we could drive. It just worked out that way.’’
Michigan State (27-12) looked good in the first 4 minutes. The Spartans jumped out to a 14-6 lead as junior Denzel Valentine hit three 3-pointers before the first media timeout. Travis Trice added a fourth and the Spartans opened up hitting their first four shots from distance.
From that point on, though, Michigan State only made three of its final 16 3-point shots. The Spartans shot 40 percent overall from the field for the game.
Michigan State was able to land the first punch, but Duke quickly responded.
After jumping out to the quick eight-point lead, Michigan State went nearly 6 minutes without scoring and the Blue Devils responded with a 14-2 run to take a 20-16 lead.
The Spartans closed to within two at 22-20 with 6:02 remaining in the half when Branden Dawson followed in his own missed. From there, however, Duke closed the half on a 14-5 run and took command of the game with a 36-25 halftime edge.
In the second half, Duke maintained a double digit lead the entire 20 minutes.
Valentine led Michigan State in scoring with 22 point including hitting 5-of-9 shots from 3-point range.
“They did a good job of denying us, forcing us out,’’ Valentine said. “We took some bad shots, had some bad turnovers. That was the difference in the game.’’