Top-seeded Blue Devils take down Baylor, 78-71
• Photo gallery: NCAA: Duke vs. Baylor
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
HOUSTON — Look who's back in the Final Four.
Duke restored some order to a topsy-turvy NCAA tournament yesterday, getting 29 points from Nolan Smith in a 78-71 victory over Baylor that put Coach K and the Blue Devils in college basketball's biggest event for the first time in six years.
Jon Scheyer added 20 points for Duke, ending Baylor's charming run to redemption in the South Regional final. The Blue Devils became the only No. 1 seed to advance to Indianapolis and earned their 11th Final Four berth under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"I can't put it into words," said Lance Thomas, one of three Duke seniors. "It took us four years to get here and we're not done yet."
The Blue Devils will play East Regional champion West Virginia in the national semifinals Saturday night. They have won 11 of their last 12 regional finals under Krzyzewski, but haven't won a national title since 2001.
Coach K made his first Final Four with Duke in 1986 and hadn't had a gap this long between trips.
To end the drought, Duke had to win at Reliant Stadium — only 3 1/2 hours from Baylor's campus. Most of the crowd of 47,492 was dressed in the green and gold of the Bears.
"We played against a great team," Krzyzewski said. "It was such a well-played game, and we were fortunate to win."
Smith and Scheyer helped the Blue Devils (33-5) offset a poor game from junior forward Kyle Singler, who was 0 for 10 from the field and made only five free throws.
LaceDarius Dunn had 22 points and Ekpe Udoh scored 18 for the third-seeded Bears (28-8), whose program was in shambles when coach Scott Drew took over in the wake of murder and scandal less than seven years ago.
Drew took the Bears from tatters to the cusp of their first Final Four appearance in 60 years. After three consecutive 20-win seasons and an inspiring postseason run, maybe Baylor can be recognized more for its success now than the tragic summer of 2003 that is finally starting to feel like a long time ago.
"I really hope so and I really feel it has," Drew said, his voice quivering. "I do really want to thank all the fans in the state of Texas."
After tying the game for the 12th time on a free throw with 3:36 left, Smith missed his second attempt. But Thomas grabbed one of his nine rebounds and quickly passed the ball right back to Smith, who hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Duke up 64-61.
Scheyer, another senior, then extended the lead to six with his fifth 3-pointer.
"Those two 3s in a row, by Nolan and then Jon, those were big-time plays," Krzyzewski said. "The big guys kicked it out and those are the best 3s to take."
And the long-range shots were the best for Duke against Baylor's tenacious zone defense featuring a combination of a 7-footer and a pair of 6-10 players.
The Blue Devils made 11 of 23 3-pointers (48 percent) — and shot only 11 of 38 from inside the arc.
With Baylor desperately trying to get the ball back after a turnover by Carter, there was a scuffle by the sideline following a whistle and Quincy Acy was called for a technical foul. Scheyer hit both free throws, pushing the lead to 10 with 1:19 left.
Tweety Carter and Acy had 12 points each for Baylor. Udoh had 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks.