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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Blue Devils were definitely the better team

by Wally Hall | March 27, 2022 at 3:59 a.m.


The University of Arkansas could have become one of the all-time great college basketball trivia answers: What team ended Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's record at 1,201 wins and denied him a NCAA record 13th appearance in the Final Four?

The Razorbacks, though, couldn't match up with the Blue Devils inside or out. A great Arkansas season ended at the hands of a great team, 78-69.

Nolan Richardson used to say Duke was one of those teams that wins with McDonald's All-Americans, and he wins with players who eat at Burger King.

This entire tournament has mostly been about Krzyzewski because he announced this was going to be his last season.

At 75, it was time to have dinner at a regular hour every day with his wife, Mickie.

There's no doubt that he's been the face of college basketball since the Blue Devils won back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992, and he's added three more since.

Former UCLA head coach John Wooden holds the record with 12 championships but Krzyzewski tied him for Final Four appearances with 12, until Saturday night.

Critics of Duke, or in some cases those jealous of the academic school's success, say the Blue Devils get all the calls, and sometimes that seems hard to argue with.

Not that Duke needs the help. It doesn't.

Yet, at the half last night the Blue Devils were 9 of 10 from the free-throw line and Arkansas was 3 of 3.

Guess the Razorbacks were fouling when Duke was shooting, and Duke was fouling before shots.

Again, it wasn't the officiating. The Blue Devils rededicated themselves to this season and their coach after losing the final regular-season game to North Carolina on their home court, Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The reason most call Krzyzewski the G.O.A.T. was seen when the Razorbacks rallied to pull within 53-48 on a three-point play by Jaylin Williams and Coach K immediately got a timeout.

The Blue Devils went on a 10-0 run as they attacked inside, forcing Williams to make a decision on which guy to cover and it took another three-point play by Williams -- who could have started for Duke -- to stop the bleeding but just temporarily.

Duke had laid off three-pointers for the most part but got back-to-back treys and it was 72-54 with 6:31 to play. The two people in the arena who didn't know it was over was Krzyzewski and Eric Musselman. Both continued to coach like the game was tied and only five seconds remained.

In the end, it wasn't a good match-up for Arkansas. Duke took the Hogs' best defensive shots and didn't slow down.

The Blue Devils were the best team Saturday night. They bulled in for lay-ups and short jumpers on offense and the other end of the court they contested every dribble and every shot.

Duke closed the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 45-33 lead into the dressing room.

Arkansas came out with an aggressive defense and looking for high percentage shots, and with 8:29 before the break Williams notched a three-point play to make it 22-19. The Razorbacks would be outscored 23-14 the remainder of the half.

Early, the Razorbacks were going toe-to-toe with the Blue Devils, but Krzyzewski made a defensive switch, putting a taller defender on Notae who had eight quick points before basically shutting down Arkansas' leading scorer.

What the Hogs couldn't seem to do was rebound with the Blue Devils, who grabbed 22 to Arkansas' 12, and the Blue Devils' bulk was also felt in scoring as they got 30 points in the paint.

Duke didn't let up in the second half, though both teams were lulled into a half-court game.

Now Krzyzewski is headed to his 13th and final Final Four.


Print Headline: Blue Devils were definitely the better team

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