Duke Downs Texas Tech

Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching career continues for at least one more game, and so does the possibility of ending his legendary tenure at Duke with a sixth national championship.

After looking overwhelmed by Texas Tech’s suffocating defense at times, the Blue Devils responded with an inspired second half behind star freshman Paolo Banchero and 7-1 center Mark Williams to power Duke to a 78-73 victory Thursday in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional. It also marked Krzyzewski's 100th tournament win.

On Saturday, the second-seeded Blue Devils will face No. 4 Arkansas, which upset top-seeded Gonzaga 74-68, with a spot in the Final Four on the line. If they advance that far, Krzyzewski would set a record with a 13th Final Four appearance, breaking a tie with the iconic John Wooden of UCLA.

Banchero and Williams combined for 38 points, imposing their size against a Red Raiders team that had allowed an opponent as many as 70 points only twice this season.

The game pitted Duke’s usual collection of blue-chip prospects bound for the NBA – tops among them Banchero and guard AJ Griffin – against a gritty, experienced Texas Tech roster featuring several transfers and five upperclassmen in the starting lineup. Only one of Duke’s starters, junior forward Wendell Moore, has played more than two seasons of college basketball. Three of its five leading scorers are freshmen.

The Blue Devils had looked shaky in going 2-2 over their last four games before the NCAAs, including a runaway loss to rival North Carolina in Krzyzewski’s final home game. Their two March Madness victories had been solid but less than impressive, raising questions about Duke’s ability to get past the Red Raiders, let alone reach the Final Four in New Orleans.

Duke was fortunate to trail by only 33-29 at intermission after leading only once, when it went up 24-22 on a Jeremy Roach jumper at the 7:47 mark. The Red Raiders promptly launched a 7-0 run from that point but failed to capitalize on holding the Blue Devils to 2-for-12 shooting the rest of the half.

A renewed emphasis on taking advantage of their superior size, especially the combination of Banchero and Williams, fueled the comeback victory.