NCAA Tournament: Duke 74, Texas 69: Blue Devils in Sweet 16
By Bret Strelow
GREENSBORO ó Jon Scheyer lunged into the Texas bench, secured the loose ball and used his left hand to whip a behind-the-back pass toward the opposite end of the floor.
Duke teammate Elliot Williams chased after the 75-foot offering and drew a foul when Gary Johnson pushed off near the Blue Devils’ foul line.
Williams wasn’t able to make a game-sealing free throw, but David McClure kept a second miss alive and gave Gerald Henderson the chance to come up with a critical offensive rebound.
Lots of little plays added up to an especially “Sweet” win.
Henderson scored 24 points and Kyle Singler had 17 as the second-seeded Blue Devils advanced to the East Regional semifinals with a 74-69 victory against seventh-seeded Texas on Saturday night at Greensboro Coliseum.
Duke (30-6) held off a late rally from the Longhorns (23-12) to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
“I’m past relief,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I think part of it was coaching the Olympic team. I coached three years, three summers with a lot of pressure on me, putting a little bit of my career on the line because you’ve got to win. I told myself I’m not going to do that to be relieved. I’m going to do it and have the time of my life.”
That philosophy contributed to the United States basketball team winning a gold medal and helped Duke, which faces Villanova (28-7) in Boston on Thursday, avoid an early NCAA tournament exit for the third straight year.
“When we won the gold medal, I was exhilarated and not relieved,” Krzyzewski said. “When we won today, I was exhilarated and not relieved. That’s the message I want to send to my players so they never feel pressure.
“I told our Olympic team and I told our team, we need to play because of anticipation, not expectation. Anticipation gets you forward; expectation inhibits.”
Texas was tied with the Blue Devils at 6-all, and it didn’t break even again until Varez Ward drilled a jumper with 1:45 remaining.
Henderson missed a layup on Duke’s next possession, but Singler elevated in a crowd and tipped the ball into the basket with his left hand to deliver a 69-67 lead.
Singler picked up his fifth foul 10 seconds later, and Johnson tied the game from the line.
“That’s kind of like my worst nightmare, watching these guys from the side try to pull this out,” Singler said.
Henderson failed to hit a fadeaway jumper from the left baseline, and guard Nolan Smith drew a foul while attempting to grab the rebound. He made two free throws to put the Blue Devils ahead for good with 47 seconds left.
A 3-point try from Texas forward Damion James rolled completely around the rim before falling off, and Henderson added a free throw for a 72-69 edge.
Longhorns star A.J. Abrams then missed a short jumper, and James couldn’t connect with a tip. Scheyer knocked the ball loose, and it went bouncing toward Texas’ bench.
“I wanted to give one of our guys a chance to make a play,” Scheyer said.
Williams capitalized on the chance Scheyer created, and the acrobatic save stuck out to Krzyzewski.
“It will go down as one of the great plays for this team,” Krzyzewski said, “and our guys ran after it like crazy.”
Williams went 0-for-2 at the line with 11.5 seconds left, but Henderson made two free throws after going to his knees to grab a rebound following the second miss.
Henderson pumped his right fist above his head when he drew a foul from the ground.
“He’s had a really good year, and down the stretch I just rode him,” Krzyzewski said. “We were going to sink or swim with him, and we’re swimming.”