PoG: WVU - Duke

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a rough night for almost every Mountaineer on both ends of the floor. Despite the best efforts of a reserve forward and a senior stalwart, Duke was just too much in the second of Saturday night's two national semifinal games.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

John Flowers.

His contribution kept the Mountaineers in the game early, as he canned a pair of 3-pointers to the surprise of almost everyone at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The junior forward also played solid defense during his 15 minutes on the floor. He had one blocked shot, but the box score didn't account for how well he played -- especially on a day when most every West Virginia player struggled defensively.

Typically a poor foul shooter, he even added a pair of free throws late. But it wasn't enough on a night when Duke played an all-around stellar game.

NET BURNERS:

  • Wellington Smith.

    The denouement to the senior's career was a solid performance. He had a team-high 12 points, tied for a team-high with five rebounds and added four assists and two blocks without committing a turnover.

    Like most everyone else, Smith struggled a bit on defense. But he continued to play with heart and tenacity on both ends of the floor, hoping to help make a miraculous comeback happen.

    Besides the emotional scene that occurred when fellow senior Da'Sean Butler's WVU career was ended by a scary looking knee injury that, to the relief of most everyone, turned out to be only a sprain, it was most difficult to watch Smith exit his final collegiate game for the last time.

    He hugged and held onto Kevin Jones tightly, just in front of the team's bench. He cried into his teammate's shoulder, like everyone else, struggling to explain what had just happened.

    Butler deservedly grabbed most of the headlines for West Virginia all season long. But Smith made great strides as a player throughout his four-year career in Morgantown and, like Butler, is a guy that is easy to root for.

    Perhaps Butler will be more long-remembered by Mountaineer fans for his lofty statistics and attention-grabbing heroics. But Smith should not be soon forgotten, either.

  • Duke's ability to get open shots -- and make them.

    It was supposed to be a battle of two teams that prided themselves on defense. The Blue Devils sufficiently cut apart WVU's man-to-man throughout Saturday night's national semifinal.

    They did so in staggeringly effective fashion.

    Players got into the lane via dribble penetration -- a bugaboo of the Mountaineers earlier in the season that had rarely been exposed recently. When help defense came, Duke players found open teammates. And those players made their shots.

    Duke shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first and and 52.0 percent in the second half -- good for a 52.7 percent average for the game. It hit seven of its 14 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes, then made six more on 11 shots from beyond the arc as an encore.

    They scored in the paint (24 points, in fact). They scored from outside. They scored from midrange. They scored in transition.

    They cut apart Bob Huggins' trademark man-to-man defense in a way no other team had this season. As a result, Duke will play for the national championship against Butler on Monday night.

  • Taking care of the basketball.

    Perhaps the most jarring statistic on a box score filled with such eye-opening numbers was the assist-to-turnover ratio for Duke.

    The Blue Devils had 20 assists on their 29 made baskets. They only committed six turnovers.

    It was a clinic on efficiency of offense. Jon Scheyer had 23 points, six assists and no turnovers. Nolan Smith had 19 points, six assists and no turnovers. Kyle Singler had 21 points and five more assists -- more than offsetting his three giveaways.

    Duke wasn't giving the ball away. And combined with the way its players shot the ball and the extra opportunities they earned with 11 offensive rebounds, a Mountaineer victory just was not to be.


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