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Duke defeats Michigan State; Coach K advances to ninth national title game

Duke defeated Michigan State 81-61 in the Final Four to advance to Coach K's ninth national championship game.

Michigan State looked ready to conjure more magic at the beginning of its Final Four matchup with Duke. The Spartans opened up a 14-6 lead in the first four minutes of the first half, but then it was all Duke. The Blue Devils rode lockdown defense and a return to form for freshman star Jahlil Okafor to beat Michigan State 81-61 and advance to Monday's national championship game. It will be the ninth time the Blue Devils have played for the title under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Michigan State started the first half hot, going 4-for-4 on three-pointers—including three from forward Branden Dawson. Duke got back into the game through its defense, switching between zone and man, and by feeding Okafor in the post. The Blue Devils held Michigan State without a bucket for two separate six-minute stretches during the first half.

An Okaforputback dunk with 9:41 remaining gave Duke its first lead of the contest, and it wouldn’t relinquish that for the rest of the game. The Blue Devils closed the first half on a 30-11 run and up 36-25.

In the second half, freshman wing Justise Winslow opened the scoring with a bucket, increasing Duke’s lead to 13 points. The game was never closer than that again. Winslow led the Blue Devils with 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Okafor scored 18 on 7-of-11 from the floor and senior guard Quinn Cook added 13.

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For the Spartans, junior guard Denzel Valentine led the way with 22 points, followed by senior guard Travis Trice with 16 and Dawson with 12.

Duke will face the winner of Kentucky-Wisconsin on Monday night.

It’s the end of another miraculous NCAA tournament run for Tom Izzo, whose Spartans have been more successful in March than April. Since winning the national  championship in 2000, Izzo is 1-7 in the Final Four. Izzo’s alltime record against Krzyzewski is now 1-9. Coach K has led the Blue Devils to four NCAA titles, two of which were won in Indianapolis, in 1991 and 2010.