Duke dooms WVU
INDIANAPOLIS - If Da'Sean Butler was to be carried off the floor in his final college game, it was supposed to be Monday night following a victory against Butler that gave West Virginia a national championship. And if the script were to continue as it has this season and this month, it would have been a basket by Butler at the buzzer that beat the Bulldogs.
Well, Butler was carried off the floor Saturday night with 8:59 remaining after he was called for a charge and then crumbled to the floor inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Teammate Deniz Kilicli and Dr. Kelly Bal, the team's orthopedic surgeon who was summoned from the crowd, helped Butler to the locker room, from where he never returned.
It was one of many, many things that went wrong for the Mountaineers in a 78-57 loss to Duke in the national semifinal.
"We picked a bad night to have a bad one," said point guard Joe Mazzulla. "When your bread and butter aren't working, what the hell are you supposed to turn to?"
WVU's 10-game winning streak and first Final Four appearance since 1959 ended with a defensive meltdown the team had been able to avoid for a month. It wasn't that the Mountaineers couldn't guard. It was that they didn't.
"That wasn't us today on defense," said forward Devin Ebanks. "We let them get to the middle, which is one of the things we never let people do, and once you let people get in the middle and you have to help, their guys get open for kick-outs. They did both to us. We just didn't play our game and it turned around to bite us."
Duke (34-5) burned the Mountaineers (31-7) with a relentless attack of the basket and burned the nets with 13 3-pointers. The Blue Devils adequately avenged a loss in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament by beating the Mountaineers in every measurable way.
"It was the exact opposite of how we're supposed to play," said Butler, who was diagnosed with a sprained left knee.
Duke shot 52.7 percent from the floor. It's just the 16th time an opponent has made more than half its shots against WVU the past three seasons. The Blue Devils were 16-for-30 from 2-point range - that included 10 layups and a dunk -- and 13-for-25 from 3-point range. Not since Feb. 1, 2006, when Notre Dame hit 14 3s in a loss, has WVU allowed as many baskets from behind the line.
The Mountaineers were outrebounded 29-27 and outscored 19-7 on second-chance points, including 12-0 in the first half. Duke had 20 assists and six turnovers while WVU had 11 and 10 and gave Duke 14 points off its errors.
"Duke beat us at what we do," Ebanks aid. "Defense, rebounding, they beat us at everything. They were definitely the better team."
Guard Jon Scheyer made five 3s and led Duke with 23 points and six assists. Forward Kyle Singler had 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Guard Nolan Smith made four 3s and had 19 points and six assists. The Big Three made 22 of 44 shots and had 12 of the team's 3s plus 17 assists to just three turnovers.
"Well," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said before delivering the understatement of the weekend, "our team played really well."
Duke plays Butler at 9:21 p.m. Monday. The Bulldogs, who have won 25 straight games, advanced with a 52-50 victory against Michigan State.
Wellington Smith led WVU with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists in his last game. Ebanks, who may have also played his last name because he could enter the NBA Draft, scored 11 points, but had only three rebounds. Butler had issues guarding Singler in the first half and finished with 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting before leaving in the second half.
The Mountaineers were down 58-48 when Butler scored the final basket of his career with 10:59 remaining. Scheyer made two free throws and then a 3 after a miss by Butler. The third-leading scorer in WVU history tried to get to the basket on the next possession, but slipped on a wet spot, crashed into Duke center Brian Zoubek and then hit the ground.
"I was terrified," Butler said.
The Mountaineers were, too, and it affected them. They shot 2-for-10 the rest of the way.
"It was over at that point," Mazzulla said.
Krzyzewski improved to 8-3 in the national semifinal and can win the school's fourth national title and first since 2001. The Blue Devils are 3-6 in the title game. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, finish a historic season with their worst defeat in more than a year. They lost at Marquette last season, 75-53. The team set a school record for victories and spent all but seven days of the season in the top 10. They also won the school's first conference tournament title in 26 years and the first Big East title ever.
It just wasn't supposed to end the way it did, though. The Mountaineers had allowed fewer than 60 points to six of the past 10 opponents and no one scored more than 68. Georgetown shot 49 percent against WVU March 1, but no one else was above 42.6 percent and the eight others opponents were below 40 percent.
"If we came out and played even remotely as hard as we played any of the games we've played in these tournaments, we'd still be playing," Butler said. "I don't think we, as a team, came out ready and I think they came out with an intensity that we couldn't match."
Still, the Mountaineers played wildly effective offense early on and were 11-for-20 from the floor and had made 4 of 5 3-point attempts. Duke led though, 37-24, after making its seventh 3 of the first half. The Blue Devils made 16 of their first 27 shots to hand WVU its largest deficit of the entire postseason. The Mountaineers trailed Villanova by 14 points in the middle of the first half of the regular-season finale March 6.
Butler scored his first basket with 4:10 to go in the half and then Ebanks had a pair of baskets around a Smith layup. His three-point play made it 39-31 with 2:54 remaining. Duke missed two shots and had two turnovers on the next three possessions, but WVU never capitalized. The margin would drop to five points once in the second half, but Duke was never rattled
"They played really, really well," Coach Bob Huggins said. "And I've watched a lot of tape. I haven't seen them play that well. And we didn't play very well. That's what happens."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.