College Sports

No. 1 Duke’s magic runs out as Michigan State reaches Final Four of NCAA Tournament

Duke leaves in tears after Elite Eight loss to Michigan State

The Blue Devils leave the court in tears after losing 68-67 to Michigan State.
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The Blue Devils leave the court in tears after losing 68-67 to Michigan State.

No. 5 Michigan State made sure a thrilling game’s 16th lead change was its last.

Kenny Goins’ 3-pointer with 35 seconds left put the Spartans ahead for good and No. 1 Duke scored just one free throw on its final three possessions as the second-seeded Spartans beat the Blue Devils 68-67 in the NCAA tournament East Region final at Capital One Arena

Michigan State (32-6) heads to the Final Four while Duke (32-6), the tournament’s top seed, saw its season end in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season.

Cassius Winston led Michigan State with 20 points and 10 assists while Xavier Tillman added 19 points with nine rebounds. Goins scored 10 points, including the game’s final basket.

“I thought Winston was a difference-maker,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And whenever we did get a three, four-point lead or it was close -- it was close all the time -- he made big plays either scoring or assisting. He’s the best guard we’ve played against.”

Duke’s Zion Williamson scored 24 points while RJ Barrett scored 21. Projected as the top two prospects for June’s NBA Draft, they almost certainly played their final game in a Duke uniform. Javin DeLaurier had 10 points with 11 rebounds for Duke.

Duke’s RJ Barrett, left, Zion Williamson and head coach Mike Krzyzewski listen to a question after Michigan State’s 68-67 victory over Duke in their NCAA Elite 8 game in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 31, 2019. Ethan Hyman

Duke survived its two previous NCAA tournament games when its foes missed shots at the buzzer. The Blue Devils outlasted Central Florida 77-76 in the second round on March 24 and Virginia Tech 75-73 in the regional semifinal on Friday night.

But the Blue Devils couldn’t make it three in a row.

Trailing 63-59 as the clock ticked below four minutes, Duke got a basket at the rim from DeLaurier to cut the deficit in half.

Barrett put Duke in front 64-63 on a 3-pointer with 2:28 to play. That was the thrilling game’s 15th lead change.

Williamson extended Duke’s lead to 66-63 when he drove the lane to bank in a basket with 1:40 to play.

Michigan State wasn’t done and Duke couldn’t make another shot.

Winston drove the lane and passed to Tillman for a basket with 1:17 left.

After Barrett missed a shot in the lane with 50 seconds left, Goins’ 3-pointer put Michigan State up 68-66 with 35 seconds left.

The Spartans succeeded in keeping Duke out of the lane, forcing Barrett to attempt a 3-pointer which he missed with 12 seconds left. A replay review awarded the ball to Duke.

Tre Jones inbounded the ball to Barrett, who was fouled in the lane with 5.2 seconds to play. He missed the first free throw but made the second. Michigan State ran out the clock to advance to the Final Four.

“All credit to them,” Barrett said. ”They played a hell of a game. But for it to be over for us is heartbreaking.”

The game saw its seventh tie at 58 all before Barrett’s free throw put Duke up 59-58 with 4:53 to play.

But the Spartans took their turn pushing Duke back. Winston hit a runner in the lane to put Michigan State on top 60-59.

After a poor Duke pass trying to get the ball to Williamson led to a turnover, Tillman finished the fast break with a dunk as DeLaurier fouled him. Tillman’s free throw put Michigan State up 63-59 with 4:07 to play.

Michigan State led by six points in the early seconds of the second half before Williamson brought Duke back.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks with reporters following the Blue Devils' loss to Michigan State in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament March 31, 2019.

He scored Duke’s first 10 points of the second half to help whittle away the Spartans lead. When Jones scored on a reverse layup with 16:10 to play, Duke had its first lead of the second half at 42-41.

The lead changed hands on the next five possessions in the back-and-forth game. Reddish made it six in a row with a 3-pointer with 12:14 left.

Williamson hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 11:40 to play giving Duke a 52-48 lead.

But Winston hit a 3-pointer and, with 10:05 to play Tillman took a Winston pass in the lane for a slam dunk that put Michigan State back in front 53-52.

Both teams pieced together long scoring runs while the other suffered through extended scoring droughts in the first half.

Duke, after trailing 16-9 early in the half, ran off 12 consecutive points while Michigan State went scoreless for 3:56. Michigan State’s streak of seven consecutive misses allowed Duke to take a 30-21 lead.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Reddish and Barrett ended that streak to put Duke up nine points with 5:22 left in the half.

But the Blue Devils didn’t score again in the first half

Duke missed its final five shots before halftime while turning the ball over five times. While Duke went scoreless on nine consecutive possessions, Michigan State scored the half’s final 13 points to lead 34-30 at halftime.

Winston scored eight points during the run, including his dribble drive past Jones for a layup with four seconds left in the half.

Barrett and Winston each scored 12 first-half points to lead their respective teams.

Check out photos from Duke's Elite 8 game against Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament March 31, 2019.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.