The Slipper Still Doesn't Fit

It wasn't supposed to be dramatic. It wasn't, really, supposed to be a competitive game. After all the Blue Devils were supposed to be much stronger while Butler had lost its best player. And yet Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs had the team they were inches from upsetting in April sweating for much of Saturday afternoon's game.

Still, in the end, it was Duke's newly found depth that helped offset a foul plagued night for Final Four MOP Kyle Singler to give the Blue Devils an 82-70 victory over Butler.

Nolan Smith scored a game high 24 points while Kyrie Irving added 17 of his 21 in the second half to help Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski into a tie Adolph Rupp for third on the all-time wins list with 876.

In April the Bulldogs struggled to match-up with Singler on both ends of the floor as the Oregon senior exploded for 19 points and 9 rebounds en route to being named as the Final Four's most outstanding player and, subsequently, the preseason National Player of the Year. However, Singler was limited to 13 points 1-of-6 shooting from the perimeter before fouling out with four minutes remaining.

A similar situation eight months ago would have almost assuredly allowed the Bulldogs to claim an improbable first title. But these Blue Devils are deeper and more athletic than last year's squad - as evidenced by Andre Dawkins who played, perhaps, his best game as a Blue Devil. The 6'4 sophomore scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench as the Bulldogs forced Duke to go with a smaller lineup for most of the game.

Shawn Vanzant scored a team high 14 points for the Bulldogs who led by two with 13 minutes remaining before Duke put together a game changing 12-0 spurt that began with Nolan Smith converting three free throws and ended with an alley-oop to Mason Plumlee that pushed the lead to 54-44 and forced Stevens to call a timeout.

Out of the stoppage the Bulldogs got a three pointer from Chase Stigall followed by Vanzant scoring 10 straight points to cut the lead to 60-57 with 7:23 remaining.

However, Irving answered with consecutive three pointers to push the lead to seven with 6:29 remaining. The Bulldogs would get no closer the rest of the way as Duke moved to 8-0 for the 16th time under Krzyzewski.


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