EditorsNote: adds quotes from Krzyzewski, Self, Allen and Graham
Sophomore guard Malik Newman scored 12 of his 32 points in overtime as top-seeded Kansas defeated second-seeded Duke 85-81 in a classic Midwest Regional final Sunday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
The showdown between teams representing two storied programs lived up to its billing.
Junior guard Lagerald Vick added 14 points as Kansas (31-7) earned its 15th Final Four berth, its first since 2012 after losing regional finals in each of the past two years. Senior guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk both had 11 points.
“There is a lot of players out there that deserve the best of the best, and nobody more than Svi and Devonte’,” Kansas head coach Bill Self told CBS Sports afterward. “We’ve come up short each and every year. But they get to experience what the very best of the best is, and I’m so happy for them.”
Kansas will face Villanova, which won the East Region title earlier in the day by defeating Texas Tech, in Saturday’s Final Four at San Antonio.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, with a four-freshman starting lineup plus senior holdover Grayson Allen from the 2015 national championship team, was denied a record-setting 13th trip to the Final Four as a head coach.
Freshman guard Trevon Duval scored 20 points, fellow frosh Gary Trent Jr. had 17 points, freshman forward Marvin Bagley III supplied 16 points and Allen finished with 12 for the Blue Devils (29-8).
“I think both teams were deserving of winning, and that’s why it came down to a possession right at the end of the game and went into overtime,” Krzyzewski said. “I want to congratulate Kansas. They’re superb, superbly coached, and they’re as quick a team as we’ve played all year.
“And I want to congratulate my guys. You know, they’ve gotten better throughout, and they played winning basketball today. And I feel badly for them because I thought they were deserving of winning, too.”
Sophomore 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, whose dunk gave Kansas a 69-68 lead, fouled out on Allen’s drive with 1:59 to play in regulation. Allen made both foul shots before a Kansas turnover.
Allen sank two more free throws at the 1:25 mark. Newman missed a long 3-pointer for Kansas, but Mykhailiuk’s trey tied it with 25.7 seconds to play. Allen’s leaner rattled out, sending the game to overtime tied at 69.
“It came really close to going in and it didn’t,” Allen said. “You know, I was trying to drive right, (Newman) cut me off, went back left, and their big stepped up to help. And I had to get a shot up over him and tried to bank it in and it was right there, rolled out.”
Self said of the Allen’s last-second miss, “Malik defended it perfectly but (Allen) still got it off the backboard and kind of spun around, looked like it had a chance to fall in. ... But, yeah, we were fortunate, because they put the ball in his hands late to go make some plays, and Malik defended it perfectly. And I think that stop did give us some confidence going, no question, going into overtime, guarding them.”
Heading into OT, Self told his players to enjoy the moment.
“You know, we made great plays down the stretch and to tie it up,” Self said. “We felt good the whole game. We thought we got the ball where it needed to go. Overall, it was an unbelievable, tough, tough team win. I called my team soft. There’s nothing soft about them. Unbelievable.”
Newman, who hit two 3-pointers in the opening 90 seconds of the second half, finished with five treys.
After Vick drained a 3-pointer to give the Jayhawks a 44-39 lead, the Blue Devils called timeout with 16:25 to play.
Duke freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. (10 points) picked up his fourth foul on Kansas’ next possession as the Jayhawks built a seven-point edge. Azubuike was hit with his fourth foul with 11:43 to play.
Duke tied it at 57-57 before Kansas scored five straight. The Jayhawks then had turnovers on two of their next three possessions.
Trent’s 3-pointer after Duke nearly turned it over sent the Blue Devils in front at 64-62. Newman answered with a 3-pointer, setting up a frantic finish.
“It’s just a great feeling for us, for the fans, just everything that we’ve been through this year, all the ups and downs, and the boot camp and everything that we’ve been through, we do it for moments like this,” Graham said. “And it’s just special, especially getting here this same game last two years and losing it. It’s just getting over that hump and it just feels unbelievable.”
Duke led 36-33 at halftime despite 3-for-15 shooting on 3-point attempts.
Duval scored 13 first-half points, eclipsing his total from all except one game in the past two months. Trent posted nine points in the first half.
Kansas, which led for only 90 seconds of the first half, was stung by 10 first-half turnovers, negating some of its 24-18 rebounding advantage. Carter was saddled with three fouls by the 4:25 mark of the first half.
—Field Level Media