'What a game': Michigan State can't hold off Duke, Mike Krzyzewski in NCAA Tournament
Greenville, S.C. — It was a game fitting of a Final Four.
But on Sunday, it happened to be a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament, one that pitted one legendary coach against another, two of the top programs in college basketball slugging away with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Not many people gave No. 7 Michigan State a shot to beat No. 2 Duke with coach Mike Krzyzewski in his 42nd and final season leading the Blue Devils. But with five minutes to play, it was Tom Izzo and Michigan State that held a five-point lead.
That’s when the Blue Devils turned it on, though, ripping off a 20-6 run to close the game and earn an 85-76 victory over the Spartans to advance in the West Region with a date against No. 3 Texas Tech up next.
“I’m proud of my team,” a raspy voiced, red-eyed Izzo said after the game. “We’ve been through a lot ... we just didn't have enough.
“Last year I was mad at my team at the end. This year I'm proud of me team at the end."
It was a postseason that didn’t last a whole lot longer, as Michigan State got a win in the first round on Friday over Davidson before Sunday’s loss, a better showing than last year’s First Four exit.
But this was far different.
Michigan State stood at the center of the ring with one of the most talented teams in the country and hardly flinched, overcoming a 1-for-15 shooting stretch in the first half and a slow start to the second to storm back and take the lead.
But the Blue Devils had the talent, and when Jeremy Roach hit a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, giving Duke a 78-74 lead with 1:15 to play, it all but ended things.
“I said in the huddle if I get an open 3, I’m knocking it down,” Roach said. “I knew I had to make a play. Just making confident plays was the biggest thing.”
Michigan State turned it over on the next possession, ending any hope of last-minute heroics.
“What a game,” Krzyzewski said. “It was reminiscent of the Final Four games. Both teams were lights out with the effort today. We're so very proud of winning this game because we beat a heck of a team, obviously as well-coached as any in the country.
“I'm incredibly proud of my guys. … I'm really proud to be your coach. It had nothing to do with coaching those last four or five minutes. It all had to do with heart and togetherness.”
Krzyzewski improved to 13-3 overall against Izzo and 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament while winning his 1,200th game.
“I don't look at records against coaches,” Krzyzewski said. “Tom Izzo is one of the great coaches, Hall of Fame coach, and a great friend. I'm not going to put that up on my wall. But the 1,200 wins is substantial. Obviously, it's a lot of wins. But it's a lot of wins against quality competition and that’s what I'm most proud of.”
Michigan State’s seniors went down fighting. Gabe Brown scored 18 to lead the Spartans (23-13) while Marcus Bingham Jr. had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Tyson Walker added 13 points for the Spartans.
"A lot of mixed emotions," Bingham said. "I want to be proud, but at the same time, mad that we're not playing another night. I think the guys went out there and played hard from the first half into the second half. We fought. Just some situations, we just didn't pull through."
Added Brown, "I put everything I had into being here, playing at Michigan State. Everything I put into it for Coach Izzo, my teammates, for the staff, for everybody. I'm sad that I can't play another night, but it's motivation. It's motivation for sure for next year."
What next year means for Brown and Bingham remains to be seen. The same for Joey Hauser, as all three could come back. Those are questions to be answered another day. On Sunday, it was about grappling with the fact the season had come to an end in what turned out to be a class tournament game.
"I'm proud of the guys," Bingham said. "We all played hard tonight."
Five players for Duke scored in double figures, with Paolo Banchero scoring 19, and Roach, Mark Williams and Wendell Moore Jr. scoring 15 each. Trevor Keels chipped in 12 for the Blue Devils (30-6).
“It’s the NCAA Tournament and the season's on the line every single game,” Banchero said. “So I mean, that's really all that needs to be said. We got down and we were in the timeout. We were like, ‘Man, we got four minutes. We can either lay down, or we can turn it up.’ That's really all it was, man. Just fighting, having heart, just trusting each other really.”
A 10-0 run in the first half gave Duke a 23-16 lead as Michigan State missed 11 shots in a row at one point. The skid ended with a Julius Marble put-back as Michigan State started to heat up, hitting seven straight shots including five 3-poitners in a row. Brown had three of the triples, his third tying the game, 33-33, with 1:37 left in the half.
After an A.J. Hoggard runner, Duke got a dunk from Williams and after a Marble miss, Williams got free again for another dunk in the closing seconds as the Blue Devils took a 39-35 lead to the halftime locker room.
“We just kept chipping away,” Brown said. “My teammates happened to find me, and I happened to knock down shots.”
Duke got off to a quick start to open the second half, scoring the first five points. But a Bingham put-back followed by a Max Christie three and a dunk in transition from Brown had Michigan State back within 46-42. The Blue Devils responded by pushing the lead back to eight, a margin that stuck until a Walker 3-pointer with 11:37 to play pulled the Spartans within 57-52.
Three minutes later, Michigan State was within two at 63-61 after a put-back from Bingham and a dunk in transition from Brown. After trading buckets, Hoggard hit a pair of free throws to tie the game before Walker nailed a 3-pointer and Bingham hit two free throws to put MSU up, 70-65.
"We were five up," Izzo said. "I wasn't confident, but I felt like we were doing the things we needed to do, we were playing at a place we needed to play."
Duke answered with back-to-back layups from Banchero and Roach and tied the game at 72 on a 3-pointer from Keels as the decisive run had begun. After a Hoggard layup and one free throw from Keels, Duke went ahead by one on a drive from Banchero with 2:08 to play. Roach then buried a three late in the clock to put Duke up, 78-74, with 1:15 left in the game.
After a turnover from Christie, Duke put the game away at the free-throw line.
“My guys were so tough in those last six minutes of the game,” Krzyzewski said. “The last four or five minutes, the defense was incredible. Jeremy hit a huge three for us, and in his drives, he willed that ball in. They were some of the best drives I've seen as a Duke coach, really, especially in a pressure situation.”
Michigan State was tough, too. But when the game was on the line, it was Duke that got it done.
“Duke is the better team, and they proved it,” Izzo said. “When you're five down, pressure's on you, and you answer the bell, that says a lot about your team.
“(But) not many times do you get an opportunity to be right there in the threshold of something special, and it slipped away.”