Representing # 1 and # 2 seeds in the South bracket, the 32-4 Duke Blue Devils take on the 35-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday night with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Both of these teams are coming off solid wins against good opponents where their best players didn’t play their best games. Gonzaga beat the UCLA Bruins 74 -62 With Kyle Wiltjer scoring only 8 points, which is more than half his season average of 17. Duke was able to hold on and beat the Utah Utes 63-57 with Player of the year candidate Jahlil Ohkafor scoring 6 points which almost a third of his season average of 18. Both of these teams needed to adapt and proved they are capable of doing so. The Bulldogs have never made it to the Final Four and Duke is looking to return for the first time since 2010 when they won it all.
Gonzaga had 4 players score in double figures and Kyle Wiltjer wasn’t one of them. They proved they could score from both the inside and the outside by getting great play out of Center Przemek Karnowski and guards Byron Wesley and Kevin Pangos. Karnowski had a monster game inside with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. Wesley contributed with 14 point and 6 rebounds and Pangos did a little bit of everything with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Reserve 6 foot 10 inch forward Domantas Sabonis, son of former NBA player Arvydas Sabonis chipped in with 12 points. As a team they did a remarkable job by grabbing 50 rebounds and only committing 5 turnovers. They were the more aggressive team as they took 23 free throws while UCLA only took 11. If there was a weakness for the Bulldogs in this game it was their 3-point shooting. They shot just 16 % by making 3 out of their 19 attempts.
Duke beat the Utes behind the good play of Freshmen Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. Winslow recorded the double-double by scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds on the day after his 19th birthday. Tyus Jones scored 15 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. They were the much more aggressive team as they made 5 more free throws than Utah even attempted. Defensively, they held the Utes, who were the PAC-12’s leading 3 point shooting team to just 4-16 from behind the arc and caused them to commit 15 turnovers. The Blue Devils played sloppy themselves by committing 14 turnovers on their own. They were also outrebounded by the Utes 36-31 and rebounding could be an issue as Gonzaga is a better rebounding team than Utah.
Duke is coached by one of the all time greats in Mike Krzyzewski and he has been in this position so many times before. He knows how to prepare his team and keep them focused. Duke has played better against the spread this year going 21-14-1 while Gonzaga has gone 18-15-1.
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