Duke’s season ended in Washington D.C. on Sunday at the hands of Michigan State as the Spartans came back from a late three-point deficit to win 68-67.
It was a back-and-forth battle throughout the game as each team went on big runs in the first half and continued trading leads in the second half, but it was a late three from Kenny Goins that put the Spartans up two late for the final lead change of the evening.
Duke had taken a three-point advantage prior to that thanks to a big three-pointer by R.J. Barrett, and a strong drive from Zion Williamson seemed to give them control over things with a minute to play.
On the final two Duke possessions, it was Barrett, not Williamson, who had the ball in his hands, and in neither case could he find the bottom of the net. He did earn a trip to the foul line with just over five seconds to play, down two, with a chance to tie, but after missing the first off the back iron, his attempt at missing the second bounced high in the air and fell through.
Duke, with only three team fouls at that point, had too many fouls to give and, after successfully fouling in the initial Spartan inbound play, was unable to chase down Cassius Winston as time expired and Michigan State punched their ticket to the Final Four.
Winston led the way for the Spartans with a spectacular performance, putting up 20 points and 10 assists in the win, providing a steady hand for Michigan State under the immense pressure they faced from the Blue Devils. Xavier Tillman had 19 points and proved to be a force capable of at least withstanding the matchup with Williamson, taking on that challenge head on and finding a great deal of success.
For Duke, it was a game in which Williamson and Barrett were just about the only two capable of getting a bucket, and their efforts just weren’t quite enough. The future top overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft had 24 points and 14 boards on 10-of-19 shooting, but Javin DeLaurier (5-of-5) was the only other member of the Blue Devils who shot better than 50 percent from the field. He also was their biggest presence on the defensive end, per usual, sending away three Michigan State shots.
Barrett had 21 points, six assists, and six rebounds as he filled up the stat sheet once again, but he connected on just 7-of-17 attempts from the floor (3-of-6 from three) and missed a key free throw in a crucial moment at the end that will be much discussed.
The Blue Devils will now hit the reset button as their core group leaves for the NBA Draft, while the Spartans will look to end the Big Ten’s championship drought in Minneapolis next weekend, joining Virginia, Texas Tech, and Auburn in the Final Four.