This is one of those games where everyone outside the losing locker room starts pointing at the people inside as the cause for the loss. Nolan Smith had a bad night in his final game as a Blue Devil guard. Kyrie Irving screwed up the chemistry of the team with his presence, playing very efficiently from the field while not distributing the ball as the primary point guard. Kyle Singler cuts his elbow and Seth Curry injures his hip. Coach Mike Krzyzewski made a poor decision in inserting Irving progressively into the lineup pre-tournament, disrupting the team's hustle and flow.
But while many of those reasons seemed to sum up Duke's struggles down the stretch, it was Arizona who took this game. The Wildcats team everyone feared to see all season finally emerged, and in a glorious hour of basketball, they toppled the champs.
They took this by making shot after shot. Derrick Williams kept them afloat with an incredible 25 point first half, and the team provided him with plenty of support by playing what was essentially a perfect second half, outscoring Duke 55-33. In an incredible twelve minute stretch from 18:59 to 7:03 left in the second half, the Wildcats unleashed a hellacious barrage of points, scoring on 18 of 21 possessions, erasing an 8 point deficit to go up 15. Duke was held to mostly jump shots during that stretch, as one of the league's most efficient offenses and defenses saw their championship repeat aspirations go up in smoke in that timespan.
Arizona won two critical matchups--from our preview, one of those advantages was expected, the other a little surprising. Arizona was hitting on 60% of their threes (half of them courtesy of Williams, who continues to light it up from beyond with 5 of 6), compared to 36% for Duke, and they pounded the boards (16 offensive rebounds for the Wildcats, 9 for the Blue Devils; 24 defensive boards for the Wildcats, 18 for the Blue Devils). Those were the big advantages Arizona won to advance to the Elite 8.
Well, that and Williams. 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. Lamont Jones (16 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds), Solomon Hill (13 points, 5 rebounds) provided the necessary support to push Arizona over the top.