- Michigan State beat Duke in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
- Down the stretch, with Duke trailing by one, they were suddenly at a disadvantage because they needed to foul four times in six seconds to stop the clock and send Michigan State to the free throw line.
- On the ensuing inbounds, Michigan State escaped Duke, and ran out the clock to advance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Duke Blue Devils lost to the Michigan State Spartans, 68-67, on Sunday in the Elite Eight.
The loss ends the NCAA Tournament run for the overwhelming favourites, while Michigan State advances to the Final Four to play Texas Tech.
The game did not end on any wild buzzer-beaters or game-changing plays, but one facet of the game turned out to be a major disadvantage for Duke down the stretch.
With the Spartans leading 68-66, Duke forward R.J. Barrett got sent to the free throw line with six seconds remaining. He missed the first, then attempted to intentionally miss the second shot – with the hope that Duke could get the offensive rebound and tie the game – but the ball bounced in.
Duke fouled Michigan State when they inbounded the ball, but there was one problem – Duke still had three fouls to give to send the Spartans to the free throw line. While it would normally be an advantage to have only fouled three times prior to the end-of-game strategy, in Duke’s case, it meant that in the course of six seconds, they had to commit three fouls just to send Michigan State to the line, then go full-court to go for the game-tying or game-winning shot.
Duke’s only real chance was to get a steal on the inbounds pass. Unfortunately, for Duke, on the inbounds, Michigan State guard Cassius Winston got away from all of Duke’s defenders, sprinted into the open court, and ran out the clock.
There’s no saying how the game would have turned out if Duke had been at the foul limit and been able to send Michigan State to the line. But they would have gotten a chance to get the ball back and tie or win the game, as most teams do in that scenario. Instead, Duke’s sound defence ended up hurting them down the stretch.
Duke is now likely to lose four starters to the NBA – Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, and Barrett.
Meanwhile, Michigan State moves on with a group head coach Tom Izzo described as “warriors.”
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