Michigan State trailed Duke by one at halftime in the Sweet 16 matchup in the Midwest Region.
In the second half, though, Duke kicked up the defensive pressure and limited the Spartans offensive as Duke rolled 71-61 and will meet No. 1 overall seed Louisville in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Seth Curry was on fire shooting 8-for-17, 6-for-9 from behind the arc, en route to a game-high 29 points. But the defense in the last 20 minutes was what helped the Blue Devils advance. Michigan State entered the game with the advantage on the board with Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix inside, and that proved to be true as Sparty outrebounded Duke 33-26 and 8-4 on the offensive glass. However, Duke made it tough for the tandem inside to get anything going offensively.
Both Payne and Nix shot 3-for-10. Payne had 14 points, half of those came from the line, and grabbed nine rebounds. Nix, who did sit out with foul trouble in the second half, ended with nine points and 10 boards. With the inside presence was being held in check, Gary Harris also struggled shooting with 2-for-11 for six points in the loss.
To start the second half, Michigan State got a bucket from Nix and a Payne slam within the first two minutes. The Spartans didn’t convert on a field goal for six minutes when Harris connected on a layup. Harris’ score was the last field goal for almost nine-minute span. Michigan State had seven of its 10 turnovers in the second half also didn’t help matched with the offensive struggles.
Michigan State had it to seven at 63-56 with two minutes to go, but the Spartans had already dug themselves into a hole.