Duke reached the Elite 8 for the second time in three seasons with a 63-57 win over No. 5 seed Utah on Friday night in the South Regional in Houston. The Blue Devils moving on marks the 14th time they’ve reached the Elite 8 under Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Led by hometown hero Justise Winslow, Duke (32-4) put the game away in the final minutes after a 9-0 Utah run made the game, 49-43, with 4:07 remaining. A native of Houston, Winslow hit a jumper on Duke’s next possession to end the Utah run and give them control the rest of the game. The freshman wing had 21 points and 10 rebounds as he led the Blue Devils in both categories on Friday night.
Freshman guard Tyus Jones also contributed 15 points while star freshman center Jahlil Okafor had a quiet game of six points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Senior guard Quinn Cook contributed 11 points for Duke.
Both teams struggled to knock down shots from the perimeter in the domed setting of NRG Stadium, but Duke was more effective getting points on the interior, as they shot 42 percent (20-for-47) from the field while holding Utah to only 34 percent (21-for-61) shooting on the night. Neither team got going from the 3-point line as the Blue Devils were 3-for-10 from distance while the Utes were 4-for-15.
Utah (26-9) also struggled to get senior guard Delon Wright (10 points, 4-for-14 shooting) going, as he battled foul problems and an off-shooting night. The Utes picked up the slack with solid outings from its interior duo of Dallin Bachynski (11 points) and Jakob Poeltl (10 points, 9 rebounds) but it wasn’t enough to get them over the hump against Duke. Guard Branden Taylor led Utah with 15 points.
This wasn’t the prettiest win for Duke, but many predicted them to potentially get upset by San Diego State or Utah in this tournament and they’ve been able to withstand whatever has been thrown at them. Even with Okafor attempting only six field goals — and one free throw — Duke held a comfortable lead because they adapted to Utah’s defense collapsing on its star players and had other players stepped up.
Winslow picked up the slack for the Blue Devils was another positive sign heading into the Elite 8, because it appears he’s playing with a ton of confidence in his hometown instead of feeling the added pressure to perform in front of family and friends.
Duke advances to face No. 2 seed Gonzaga in the Elite 8 on Sunday. Earlier on Friday night, the Bulldogs advanced with a convincing win over No. 11 seed UCLA.