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INDIANAPOLIS – With 32 seconds left, Seth Curry stood at the foul line to shoot two final free throws.
In a stadium gone nearly silent, a Michigan State fan yelled, "Your brother is better!"
It was the last gasp of a defeated man. Duke was finishing squeezing the life out of the Spartans, 71-61, advancing to the Midwest Regional final against Louisville on Sunday. There was nothing left for the fans in green but a weak insult on the way out the door.
And on this night, the heckler might not even have been right. His brother, the NBA standout, had to be impressed.
Seth Curry was Steph Curry-like, raining 3-pointers on Michigan State and scoring 29 points. Big brother scored 33 in a Sweet 16 game once, a Davidson romp over Wisconsin, but little brother shot a higher percentage Friday night: he was 6-of-9 from 3-point range while Steph was 6-of-11 against the Badgers.
"Curry hurt us, no question about it," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Curry scored Duke's first nine points of the second half, all from outside the arc. The last of those 3s started a 9-0 Blue Devils run that broke open the game, and Duke led by four or more points the rest of the way.
"Seth was on a different level than anybody on the court offensively," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "To get 29 points in a game like this against an outstanding team is just an incredible accomplishment."
Duke ran its half-court sets precisely to get Curry open. With Michigan State freshman Gary Harris doing most of the guarding of Curry, the fifth-year senior set up the young kid with sharp cuts off screens and savvy movement away from the ball to get open.
"He's very wise," Izzo said. "He knows how to come off things. He knows how to get open. And I think our freshmen got a little lesson tonight."
Said Harris: "Curry did a great job using his body to create separation, and you could definitely see he is a veteran player. He knows a lot of tricks and I kind of fell for a lot of them today."
Still, this is Michigan State – you can only get so open. It's not like Curry had time to catch passes and gaze serenely at the hoop before letting shots fly.
"I made some tough shots," he said.
The youngest shot-maker in a family full of them – dad Dell started it as a famed 3-point bomber in the NBA – had his most-productive night beyond the arc in a long time. The six 3s tied his career high, a mark he last hit in mid-January. He'd made just eight 3s in the previous four games combined.
So Curry's eruption was exquisitely timed. But that wasn't the only reason Duke beat the Spartans.
[Related: Even illness can't slow down Louisville]
It's become a stereotype to label the Blue Devils' big men as soft. It's not accurate this year and certainly wasn't accurate Friday night. Duke's interior players were every bit as tough as Michigan State's.
"Coming into the game, everyone was talking about how physical they were, how tough they were, all that stuff," Curry said. "But we took that challenge. Our big guys from the jump were the more physical group down low. Our defense was great on their bigs all night."
The Spartans, famous for their work on the offensive glass, had just five second-chance points in the game. Duke held twin towers Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to a combined 6-for-20 shooting night.
The play that epitomized the interior play of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston came around the five-minute mark. Nix tried to score on the left side of the basket but the shot was blocked by Kelly. He retrieved it and tried the right side, but Plumlee swatted away that one.
Nix, who had 36 points and 23 rebounds in Michigan State's first two NCAA tourney games, finished with a double-single: nine and nine. He missed his last five shots of the game.
After being lit up by Maryland in an upset ACC tournament loss, Duke has held all three NCAA opponents to 40 percent or lower accuracy from the field. The Blue Devils' last two opponents, Michigan State and Creighton, were a combined 5-for-31 from the 3-point line.
Next up is a Louisville team that shot 54 percent from the floor against Oregon on Friday. Prior to that, the Cardinals shot 56 percent against Colorado State and 57 percent against North Carolina A&T.
So that matchup will be strength vs. strength.
"They've been playing the best basketball in the country," Krzyzewski said of Louisville. "I love their two guards [Peyton Siva and Russ Smith]. Those two kids are dynamic."
Krzyzewski's fifth-year shooting guard was pretty dynamic himself Friday night. Seth Curry looked like Steph Curry, and that's as high a compliment as you can give a college guard.
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