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Curry sends Duke past Michigan St. 71-61

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Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon, left, drives against Michigan State forward Branden Dawson (22) during the first half of a regional semifinal in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, March 29, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon, left, drives against Michigan State forward Branden Dawson (22) during the first half of a regional semifinal in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, March 29, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
INDIANAPOLIS -

Seth Curry provided sparkling offense but it was how No. 6 Duke responded to coach Mike Krzyzewski's call for defense in the second half that propelled Duke to the Midwest Regional final on Friday night.

The Blue Devils held No. 9 Michigan State to just one field goal over a stretch of nearly 15 minutes of the second half and rode Curry's hot hand to a 71-61 win in an NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The win, before a crowd of 35,520, sends second-seeded Duke (30-5) into Sunday's Midwest Regional final (5:05 p.m., WRAL) against top-seed Louisville (32-5). The winner will reach the Final Four.

In a hard-nosed struggle, Michigan State (27-8) shot just 30.4 percent (7 of 22) in the second half, finishing at 40 percent for the game.

"We did a good job of keeping them out of transition," Duke senior center Mason Plumlee said. "Once we got them in the half-court, we were able to get stops."

Duke shot 40.8 percent itself, but Curry carried the load with 29 points. The senior guard, averaging 24 points in the NCAA Tournament, hit 8 of 17 shots overall and 6 of 9 3-pointers.

Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon added 16 points, including 13 in the second half when he showed clutch free throw shooting. Sulaimon made 12 of 14 free throws in the game, including 7 of 8 in the final five minutes.

Curry's hot shooting that carried Duke in the first half helped the Devils push to their largest lead of the game early in the second half.

With the game tied at 38, Duke unleashed a 9-0 run that started with Curry 3-pointer and was fueled by a rejuvenated defense.

Following the Curry 3-ponter with 17:10 left, Krzyzewski called timeout and verbally challenged the team to focus defensively.

"At this point in the season we don't get plays back and don't get possessions back," Duke junior guard Tyler Thornton said. "He was just trying to get a sense of urgency out of us. He felt like we were playing a little flat without a lot of energy. I think the guys responded well."

The tactic certainly worked.

Duke held Michigan State scoreless on five consecutive possessions and six of the next seven. The Spartans turned the ball over five times during the stretch, with four of them coming on offensive fouls and the other on a five-second call on an in-bounds play.

Meanwhile, Plumlee scored two baskets inside and Curry added a jumper with 13:45 to play putting Duke up 47-38.

Michigan State climbed back within four points, trailing 49-45 after Gary Harris hit two free throws.

But, when Sulaimon missed a dunk attempt for Duke, Plumlee grabbed the rebound and scored to give Duke a big momentum push at 12:05.

Nearly three minutes later, with Michigan State having only managed to score one point, Thornton zipped a half-court pass to Ryan Kelly under the basket. Kelly scored, drew a foul and added a free throw for a 54-46 Duke lead.

After a Kelly block halted a Spartans possession, Sulaimon scored in transition to give Duke its first double-digit lead at 56-46 with 8:40 to play.

"We felt like we needed to pick up our defense and, when we did, good things happened," said Kelly, who had four blocked shots.

Michigan State's scoring trouble continued as Duke's focus on defense seemed to sharpen even more.

The Spartans managed three free throws, but a Sulaimon layup before Curry's free throws with 5:19 left put Duke ahead 60-49.

The Blue Devils played effective offense and slowed Michigan State's scoring to lead by as many as eight points in the first half.

Curry sank three 3-pointers, and 4 of 9 shots overall, in the first half to score 14 points. His 3-pointer with 6:22 left in the first half gave Duke a 25-18 lead and his three free throws at 4:59 gave Duke its largest lead at 28-20.

But the Blue Devils cooled off dramatically on offense to allow Michigan State to close the margin prior to halftime.

After Curry's 3-pointer at 6:22, Duke didn't hit another field goal in the first half. The Blue Devils' defense held Michigan State off for a while, and Plumlee's free throws at 3:56 kept Duke's lead at eight points (30-22).

However, the Spartans found previously unavailable seams in Duke's defense for uncontested baskets and they scored on four of their final five possessions of the first half.

Adreian Payne's 3-pointer from the corner with 19 seconds left in the half left Duke with a slim 32-31 halftime lead.

Duke's slump over the final minutes of the first half left it with a 38.6 shooting percentage at halftime.

 

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