Despite shooting poorly from the field on Sunday night, Duke locked down on Creighton's offense to come away with a 66-50 victory and a trip to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The victory marked Duke's 2,000th win in program history.
Duke led Creighton at halftime, 29-23. The Blue Devils got off to an 11-4 start, but Creighton surged back to take the lead after two free throws by Austin Chatman with 3:19 remaining in the half. Duke then went on a 9-2 run to close the half, highlighted by Tyler Thornton's three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Blue Devils, normally an efficient scoring team, shot 37 percent from the floor in the first half. The difference in the game was that they held Creighton to 29 percent shooting.
Creighton star junior forward Doug McDermott scored 13 points in the first half, but went 4-of-11 from the field.
Duke freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon had a team-high 11 points at the half on 3-of-7 shooting.
Creighton scored the first four points of the second half, but Duke began to pull away around the 10-minute mark. With Creighton continuing to struggle from the floor, the pressure was on McDermott to deliver. However, freshman forward Amile Jefferson came up big for the Blue Devils with Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in foul trouble, locking down McDermott down the stretch.
After Seth Curry's three-pointer with 6:42 remaining in the game, Duke was leading, 49-38, and the Bluejays found themselves in a tough spot.
In the end, Duke shot 39 percent from the floor, but held Creighton to 30 percent shooting. The Blue Devils also managed to knock down seven three-pointers, while the Bluejays went 2-of-19 from downtown.
Sulaimon led Duke with 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Curry followed with 17 points.
McDermott finished with 21 points, albeit on 4-of-16 shooting.
While Duke struggled from the field on Sunday night, the defense the Blue Devils displayed has to be encouraging for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Duke ranked 108th in the nation in opponents' field-goal percentage as well as 67th in defensive efficiency coming into the contest (via TeamRankings.com). Creighton, on the other hand, ranked first in field-goal percentage and third in offensive efficiency.
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry—who led Davidson on a magical NCAA tournament run in 2008—rooted on his brother Seth's team:
Never thought I’d say this. Hoping Duke gets where FGCU is at. Sweet 16 bound. Lets go Duke! @sdotcurry— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) March 25, 2013
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated relayed an interesting tidbit from Creighton star Doug McDermott as the game got underway:
Duke leads 9-4. Doug McDermott told me yesterday Creighton will not slow game down. Did last year vs. UNC and regretted it.— Pete Thamel(@SIPeteThamel) March 25, 2013
Not Bill Walton wasn't happy about the first-half display:
If you missed The Walking Dead don't worry, a rerun is taking place on TNT in the form of Duke/Creighton with all these brain dead shots.— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) March 25, 2013
With Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in foul trouble for Duke down the stretch, college basketball writer Ray Holloman tweeted:
This Duke foul trouble is reminiscent of the 2004 Final Four, when Duke's walkons were guarding Emeka Okafor. That did not end well for Duke— Ray Holloman (@Ray_Holloman) March 25, 2013
Duke Basketball noted that freshman forward Amile Jefferson played big in the wake of Plumlee and Kelly's foul trouble:
Jefferson has done an admirable job defending McDermott here in the 2nd half— Duke Basketball (@dukebasketball) March 25, 2013