Coach K’s last ride continues as Duke closes out Spartans

Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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GREENVILLE, S.C. — Duke survived a tense finish against Michigan State and extended Mike Krzyzewski’s final NCAA Tournament run, beating Tom Izzo’s Spartans 85-76 on Sunday in the Hall of Fame coaches’ bittersweet final tussle.

Star freshman Paolo Banchero scored 19 points and muscled in the go-ahead drive through contact with 2:05 left, putting the Blue Devils (30-6) ahead to stay in the record-extending 1,200th win of Krzyzewski’s career. Duke reached the Sweet 16 for the 26th time under Coach K, who announced last summer that his 42nd season with the Blue Devils would be his last.

Those coaching milestones came against his longtime friend and frequent rival. The 75-year-old Krzyzewski – who has five NCAA titles and a record-tying 12 Final Four appearances – improved to 13-3 against the 67-year-old Izzo, who won the 2000 national championship and has reached eight Final Fours.

Krzyzewski will continue his push for a career-capping championship when the second-seeded Blue Devils head to San Francisco to play Notre Dame or Texas Tech next week in the West Region semifinals.

The Blue Devils shot 61% after halftime and 57% for the game, and they needed every bit of that production to survive against the seventh-seeded Spartans (23-13) in a riveting fight to the final minute.

“That was a great game, and they knocked us back. So proud of my guys, and for a young group, they showed incredible guts,” Krzyzewski said on the CBS telecast.

Michigan State had a five-point lead with five minutes left to put Duke’s season in peril, only to see the Blue Devils respond with one big shot after another.

Gabe Brown scored 18 points to lead Michigan State, while Tyson Walker scored all 13 of his points after halftime. The Spartans shot 42% for the game and had only one field goal over the final 2 1/2 minutes in possession-by-possession fight as Duke made its move.

The 6-foot-10 Banchero had the biggest basket by putting the ball on the floor and scoring in a mauling drive against the smaller Joey Hauser for the 75-74 lead. Then Jeremy Roach hit a 3-pointer over A.J. Hoggard to beat the shot clock for a four-point lead with 1:16 left, sending an already-charged crowd into a full roar.

Even more impressive, Duke did it all with freshman starter A.J. Griffin sidelined the last 8:24 with an apparent left ankle injury. The Blue Devils closed out the game by outscoring the Spartans 20-6.

When it was clear the Blue Devils were only a few seconds from victory, Krzyzewski whipped around to the section where his family was sitting behind the bench and extended both arms to point at them in celebration.

After the buzzer, Krzyzewski and Izzo shared a long hug at midcourt to mark the end of a series that became a nonconference staple.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Izzo, who won the 2000 NCAA title and has eight Final Fours in 27 seasons, acknowledged all the “weird emotions” sure to come for both teams in this game. His team gave itself a chance but couldn’t slow the Blue Devils’ late push. Izzo fell to 2-4 against Krzyzewski in the NCAA Tournament.

Duke: Banchero, a top NBA prospect, and 7-foot-1 Mark Williams (15 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) overpowered the Spartans – who have plenty of length themselves – and showed how good the Blue Devils can be in the front court. Duke was balanced with five double-figure scorers, though Griffin’s injury will be a concern.