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April 4, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS - They don't call 'em the Devils for nothing.After a thorough squashing of one feel-good story, the Duke Blue Devils get to go after another.
Jon Scheyer scored 23 points Saturday night to lift Duke, the team so many folks love to hate, to a 78-57 victory over West Virginia and set up a meeting against tiny Butler in a classic matchup of big vs. little, with the national title on the line.
In a tournament turned upside down, the Blue Devils (34-5) were the only top seed to make it to the Final Four. The trip wasn't totally predictable or expected. Duke had gone six long years since its last appearance and hasn't been to the final since winning it all nine years ago -- a veritable century by Tobacco Road standards.
But coach Mike Krzyzewski's team is back after a wire-to-wire pullaway from West Virginia (31-7), coached by alum Bob Huggins, who led the Mountaineers on a 10-game winning streak that ended with a trip to the Final Four for the first time in 51 years, back in the Jerry West era.
Huggins returned to West Virginia to bring an elusive title back home to a state that loves its flagship school like few others. But any chance of that ended with 8:59 left, when the Mountaineers' star, Da'Sean Butler, wrecked his left knee and, to add insult to injury, got called for a charge as he crumpled to the ground.
The sequence left him writhing in pain under the basket and his coach, the Huggy Bear, came out to the floor, first to yell at the refs, then to kneel down and tenderly cup the head of his star -- the player who, more than anyone, made this run possible.
Butler, a 17-point-per-game scorer, finished with 10 points, and was held to a mere basket in the first half while the Blue Devils were building their lead to as many as 13. Wellington Smith led the Mountaineers with 12 points.
Duke stayed on a road that could lead to the school's fourth championship despite the lack of a true superstar or an NBA lottery pick -- no Christian Laettners or Shane Battiers or Grant Hills on this squad. Instead, this is a group of players who do what they do well and fill their roles perfectly.
Kyle Singler scored 21 points for the Blue Devils and Nolan Smith added 19 points and six assists, a pair of performances that, added to Scheyer's, showed exactly how good Duke can be when everyone's playing well on the same night.
Brian Zoubek, all 7-foot-1 of him, clogged up the middle, along with 6-10 brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee. Zoubek finished with 10 rebounds, five on the offensive glass.
The Blue Devils won a lot of games this season on defense and rebounding, not that un-Duke-like 44 percent shooting, good for eighth in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference.
On Saturday, Duke showed what it can be like when the shots are dropping. Shredding West Virginia's ballyhooed 1-3-1 zone trap, the Blue Devils made 52.7 percent. Singler, coming off an 0-for-10 performance in the regional victory over Baylor, went 8 for 16. Scheyer, who was 1 for 11 in a win over Cal the first weekend, went 7 for 13.