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Duke advances to Sweet 16 matchup against Michigan State

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Rasheed Sulaimon had 21 points and Seth Curry added 17 to lead Duke to a 66-50 victory over Creighton in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night.

The Blue Devils return to the Sweet 16 after a one-year layoff, making the regional semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years and 11 of the last 14, and did so with relative ease. They'll play Michigan State in Indianapolis on Friday.

Duke took a six-point lead into halftime and extended that advantage as the game went on as Creighton struggled from the floor, shooting 16-of-53 (30.2 percent) overall and 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) from three. The Bluejays entered play as the best 3-point shooting team in the country at 42.2 percent, but couldn't hit shots all evening.

"We had some pretty good looks at threes, especially in the first half, that we didn't knock down, and that kind of set the tone for us for the game," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "We just weren't able to get any rhythm from the 3-point line, and that's a big part of what we do."

Creighton's last lead was 21-20 with 3:19 left in the first half.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski believed it was the best his team had played on the defensive end all season.

"I think both teams ramped it up on the defensive end," he said. "I think Creighton has been the most efficient offensive team in the country, they're not given credit for playing defense. But they were really outstanding defensively tonight."

Sulaimon, the only freshman starting for the Blue Devils, played well beyond his years, hitting five of nine from the floor and eight of 10 free throws for his third 20-point effort of the season and first since dropping 27 against Boston College on Feb. 24.

"We've played in some tremendous games this year, some very big games, and they were all nerve wracking," Sulaimon said. "But to be here in the NCAA Tournament, it just brings it to another level. Both teams are playing with a tremendous amount of urgency and nobody wants to go home and finish their season."

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott, son of the Bluejays' coach, led the team with 21 points on 4-of-16 shooting, though he did make all 12 of his free throws. The only Bluejay to hit double-figures, the 6-foot-8 junior also had a game-high nine rebounds.

"They were real physical with me," the younger McDermott said. "They were switching everything, making it frustrating. I missed a lot of shots I normally make, so that was unfortunate, but they did a great job finding me, not letting me get anything easy, so you've got to give them credit."

McDermott finished up his junior season with an uncertain future; DraftExpress.com has him as the 45th-best professional prospect this year, ranking him as a potential second-round selection in June's NBA Draft.

"We'll let all this sink in, and when the time is right, he's not going to be in any hurry to make a decision," Greg McDermott said. "He'll do what's best for Doug, and he's earned the right to do that."

Greg Echinique added nine points and six rebounds for the Bluejays in his final collegiate game, while Grant Gibbs added eight and five boards before fouling out with just over three minutes to play.

The Blue Devils rebounded the ball well as a team, with seven players pulling in four-or-more boards to help Duke to a 38-33 advantage on the glass.

Foul trouble plagued both teams all game, with a combined 46 whistles leading to 46 free-throws; Duke went 21 of 28 (75.0 percent) from the line while Creighton hit 16 of 18 (88.9 percent).

Duke starting center Mason Plumlee picked up his fourth foul minutes into the second half; by the time nine minutes remained in the game he was joined by fellow starter Ryan Kelly and reserve Josh Hairston as Blue Devils just one whistle away from fouling out. Plumlee (10 points, five rebounds) picked up his fifth with 2:45 remaining, though Duke was up 13 at the time.

NOTES: The win was Duke's 2,000th all-time, becoming the fourth program in NCAA history with 2000 wins (Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina). ... The 16 field goals by Creighton tied a Duke record for fewest field goals allowed in an NCAA Tournament game. ... McDermott finished with 834 points, third in MVC history for points as a junior, trailing only Oscar Robertson (978) and Larry Bird (959).
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