Texas Tech couldn’t withstand Duke’s incredible second-half shooting, as the Blue Devils defeated the Red Raiders, 78-73, in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
The No. 2 seed Blue Devils (31-6) move on to the Elite Eight and will face No. 4 Arkansas, which beat No. 1 Gonzaga, 74-68, in the other Sweet 16 game in the West Region in San Francisco.
The No. 3 Red Raiders (27-8) reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last four NCAA Tournaments and were out to eliminate the Blue Devils in Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season as head coach.
Instead, the Blue Devils not only found a way to move on, but to help Krzyzewski win his record 100th NCAA Tournament game in a contest that may stand as one of the best games of the entire tournament.
The Red Raiders led most of the contest, a product of their hard-nosed, man-to-man defense and four different players that scored in double figures, led by Bryson Williams’ 21 points. Texas Tech played a high-quality game, shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, hitting six 3-pointers and committing just eight turnovers. Texas Tech also led in points in the paint (42-36) and rebounds (33-29).
Texas Tech fended off an adjustment by Krzyzewski after it became clear that Duke was having trouble with Tech’s interior offense. Duke went to a 2-3 zone, a defense the Blue Devils barely use, and it caused Tech enough discomfort to help Duke take a 49-47 lead after a 9-1 run with 11:33 left.
Texas Tech took a time out, head coach Mark Adams made an adjustment and the Red Raiders scored on their next four possessions after Duke installed the zone to regain control of the contest.
With 3:15 left, a Kevin McCullar 3-pointer gave Texas Tech a 68-66 lead. McCullar finished with 17 points. But it would be Texas Tech’s last lead, as the Red Raiders would eventually be unable to overcome the fact that Duke, well, just couldn’t miss.
In the second half the Blue Devils shot 70.8 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point line and 84.6 percent from the free-throw line, and this came after a relatively tepid first half in which Tech’s defense clearly shook the Blue Devils.
Paolo Banchero, the potential No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick who ended up with 22 points, drained a 3-pointer to answer McCullar to give Duke a 69-68 lead with 2:54 left.
After a timeout, Duke went back to its man-to-man defense and frustrated Tech, as Duke center Mark Williams blocked a Williams shot, which led to a Jeremy Roach step-back at the other end to give Duke a 71-68 lead with 2:18 left. Roach scored again with 1:30 left after another Tech turnover, which gave Duke a five-point lead and a 7-0 scoring run.
It wasn’t over, but Tech had to find a way to get back in the game, and it did with an Adonis Arms dunk with 27 seconds left. Tech nearly forced a turnover on a trap, but Kevin Obanor was called for a foul and Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr. made two free throws to push the lead back to five points.
Arms, who had 13 points, came calling again on the next possession, with a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to cut the lead to 75-73. Tech fouled Duke freshman A.J. Griffin, who to that point had not shot a free throw, and he made both to ice the game.
Texas Tech had four players in double figures. The fourth was Obanor, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds to extend his NCAA Tournament streak of double-doubles to six.
For Duke, Mark Williams had 16 points, most of which came in the second half. Roach had 15, Moore had 12 and Griffin had 11.
Texas Tech started the game with a 10-2 run, driven by three early Duke turnovers and dunks by Arms, McCullar and Terrence Shannon Jr. But the Blue Devils came right back with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 12-12.
From there, the first half went back and forth until Tech grabbed a 33-29 lead at the break, thanks to an 11-5 run to end the half. Duke shot 2-of-12 down the stretch, but a Banchero dunk — with a Davion Warren foul that led to a 3-point play — gave Duke a bit of momentum going into the half.
With the exception of a layup by Santos-Silva, the rest of Texas Tech’s 31 first-half points were scored by starters, led by Obanor’s eight points. Banchero had 11 points at the break. He was the biggest bright spot for a Duke team that shot 36.7 percent in the first half.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.