Duke has played parts of three NCAA tournaments in Philadelphia and has never lost a game. The sixth win came as Sunday night turned into Monday morning, when the second-seeded Blue Devils sealed a 66-50 win over seventh-seeded Creighton in the Midwest Regional at the Wells Fargo Center.
Duke advanced to play Michigan State in Indianapolis on Friday. It will be the Blue Demons' fourth Sweet 16 in the last five seasons.
It's not often that a Duke game is anticlimactic, but that's how it seemed when the Blue Devils took the court following the frenzy of Florida Gulf Coast's win. And the game featured a different style - a physical, grinding contest of attrition rather than a full-court highlight reel. The two teams combined for 46 fouls.
For Duke, the key was stopping Creighton's Doug McDermott, one of the best players in the country. McDermott scored 21 points, but most of those points came from the free-throw line. He was 4 of 16 from the field, and his point total was built from 12 free throws.
Those missed shots were the biggest disappointment for Creighton in its bid for an upset. Creighton hit just 30.2 percent from the field and made only 2 of 19 three-pointers after entering the game making more than 42 percent of its attempts.
Duke's defense and steady play were the reasons they won. Guards Rasheed Sulaimon (21 points) and Seth Curry (17 points) were the leading scorers for the Blue Devils, although their ability to keep Creighton to a season low in points was the true beauty of an ugly game.
The Blue Devils did not trail throughout the second half, and never trailed by more than four points. Duke entered halftime with a 29-23 lead, helped by a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Tyler Thornton to extend the margin. Duke built the lead in the second half and spent much of the period playing with a margin of between eight and 12 points.
Even though Duke's big men all had to deal with foul trouble, the Bluejays were not able to significantly cut into Duke's lead. A combination of Duke's clock management, outside shooting, and inopportune missed shots by Creighton allowed Duke to maintain the advantage and ensure their postseason record in Philadelphia remained pristine.