Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 4, 2010

Duke to play Butler for championship

 •  UConn's Charles is AP's best
 •  Butler dreams on

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Duke's Kyle Singler soars past West Virginia's Kevin Jones, middle, and Wellington Smith for a dunk at the NCAA semifinals at Indianapolis.

CHRIS STEPPIG | Associated Press

spacer spacer


NCAA championship game: Butler vs. Duke

Tomorrow, 3 p.m.

KGMB(channel 7/007)

spacer spacer

INDIANAPOLIS After tossing a big, wet blanket on one feel-good story, Duke gets to go after another.

They don't call 'em the Devils for nothing.

Jon Scheyer scored 23 points last 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 a classic matchup of big vs. little, with the national title on the line.

"I think they're one of the best teams in the country," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his upcoming opponent, which has won 25 straight. "I think a Cinderella would be more if somebody had eight or nine losses and pulled some upsets."

Still, Butler is a No. 5 seed. And in a tournament turned upside down, the Blue Devils (34-5) were the only No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four.

Their trip, however, 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. Now, this group of Blue Devils has a chance to give Coach K his fourth national championship.

"It's everything," senior center Brian Zoubek said. "This is the culmination of four years for me. To have a shot at the championship my senior year, after everything we've been through, is a dream come true."

This was a wire-to-wire pullaway against the West Virginia team coached by alum Bob Huggins, who led the Mountaineers (31-7) on a 10-game winning streak that included the Big East tournament title and ended with a trip to the Final Four.

It was an inspiring journey, the first for West Virginia in 51 years, back when Jerry West wore the old gold and blue.

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, twisted 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.

"He just told me not to worry about it, that I'll be fine," Butler said. "And I told him that it hurts right now, but if I can get back out there, then I'll get back out there."

He didn't. The 17-point-per-game scorer finished with 10, 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

"We won this game as a team," forward Kyle Singler said. "It wasn't just put on my shoulders, or Jon's or Nolan's. We won this game from all sides contributing."

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 all of the "Big 3" are playing well on the same night.

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.

"I've watched a lot of tape. I haven't seen them play that well," Huggins said. "And we didn't play very well. And, you know, that happens."

Joe Mazzulla, who scored a career-high 17 points to lift the Mountaineers to their upset over Kentucky in the East Regional, finished with only four in this one and had to wear a new uniform after Zoubek drew blood while conking him on the head early in the game. Mazzulla was starting in place of injured point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who broke his right foot earlier in the tournament.

• • •