With four minutes gone in the second half and Michigan still hanging around, Duke guard Nolan Smith flipped a switch. The Wolverines had narrowed a four-point halftime deficit to two and were still hanging around went Smith hit the after-burners, scoring 10 points in just under two minutes to turn that two-point lead into a 12-point lead, putting Duke in total control.
Though Kyrie Irving’s return has been the early story for Duke in the NCAA Tournament, it’s the play of Smith that has the Blue Devils advancing in the NCAA bracket with another trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the docket after a 73-71 win over Michigan on Sunday afternoon.
It was a game of runs for Duke, but Michigan battled back throughout the second half, hanging around until the very end. After Duke had extended its lead to double-digits again in the latter part of the second half, the Wolverines found an answer, pulling to within four with two minutes to go after Tim Hardaway Jr. took over.
Duke was unable to find any sort of offense on the other end as Michigan forced a shot clock violation with strong defense. It was Hardaway Jr. coming through again, nailing a three on the other end to bring the Wolverines within one. It was a 7-0 run for Michigan with all seven points coming from Hardaway Jr.
Kyrie Irving answered on the other end, using a nifty move to get free and bury a banked floater to extend Duke’s lead back to three. Darius Morris was able to cut the Blue Devils’ lead back to one with a slick driving lay-in with 10 seconds.
Michigan had a chance at the tie, but Morris’ runner with time running out was off the mark and Duke escaped with a 73-71 win.
Smith finished with a game-high 24 points, 15 of which came in the second half as Duke extended its lead. Irving finished with 11 points, but made just one shot from the field. Morris had a team-high 16 points for Michigan.
With the win, Duke advances to the Sweet Sixteen to face either Texas or Arizona. The Longhorns and Wildcats tip-off at 3:10 p.m. in a day full of NCAA Tournament action.
Here’s a look at the rest of the West region bracket. Head over to SB Nation for an updated 2011 NCAA Tournament printable bracket.
No. 1 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 8 Michigan Wolverines
No. 4 Texas Longhorns vs. No. 5 Arizona Wildcats
No. 3 Connecticut Huskies def. No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats, 69-58
No. 2 San Diego State def. No. 7 Temple Owls, 71-64