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Mitchell Northam | | March 31, 2019

Michigan State beats Duke, setting up the Final Four

Michigan State takes down Duke, 68-67 to advance to Final Four

The Final Four field is set.

In a battle featuring two Hall of Fame coaches to decide the final bid, it was Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans coming out on top, taking a 68-67 win over Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils in Washington, D.C.

Michigan State, the Big Ten champs, are going to the Final Four for the 10th time in school history and the eighth time under Izzo.

The Spartans will join Texas Tech, Virginia and Auburn in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Down to the wire

For Duke, it was the third straight game the Blue Devils played in that was decided by single digits. Duke escaped with wins against UCF and Virginia Tech, as those teams' final shot attempts fell short of falling through the hoop.

This time, Duke wasn't so lucky.

The Blue Devils trailed by two points with less than 10 seconds left. RJ Barrett had the ball and drove to the rim, but was fouled with 5.2 seconds left. He missed the first free throw, but sank the second, cutting the deficit to a single point.

After a Duke foul, Cassius Winston caught the second inbounds pass and eluded Duke defenders, sprinting around the court as the final seconds ticked away.

The stars shined

For both Michigan State and Duke, the top players performed at their best on the biggest stage.

Winston led the Spartans with 20 points, 10 assists and four steals. Zion Williamson, Duke's freshman phenom, tallied 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

Their co-stars were solid too. For Duke, Barrett poured in 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. Alongside Winston for Michigan State, Xavier Tillman notched 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

With 2:32 to play in the second half, Williamson assisted Barrett on a three-pointer that gave the Blue Devils a one-point lead. On Duke's next possession, Williamson bulldozed his way to the rim for a lay-up.

But with 39 seconds to play, it was Tillman making a big play for the Spartans. He dished an assist to Kenny Goins, who swished a three-pointer from the top of the key to give Michigan State a two-point advantage.

Spartans led by defense

Michigan State ran crisp plays and sank some big buckets on offense, but defensively, the Spartans were at their best.

The Spartans held the Blue Devils to 33.3 percent shooting from three-point range and forced them into 17 turnovers. Michigan State scored 24 points off those turnovers, too.

Michigan State was also stout in transition, holding Duke to zero fast break points.

The Spartans entered this game with one of the top defenses in college basketball, holding opponents to a 37.8 shooting percentage from the floor, a mark that's third best in the country.

Michigan State's next opponent is Texas Tech, the third seed from the West Region. The Spartans hope that Winston, Tillman and the defense can carry them to two more wins.

Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.

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