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Coach K, Duke back in Final Four after beating Baylor

HOUSTON - Look who's back in the Final Four.

Top-seeded Duke restored some order to a topsy-turvy NCAA Tournament Sunday, getting 29 points from Nolan Smith in a 78-71 victory over third-seeded Baylor that put Coach K and the Blue Devils in college basketball's biggest event for the first time in six years.

Jon Scheyer added 20 points for Duke, ending Baylor's charming run to redemption in the South Regional final. The Blue Devils became the only No. 1 seed to advance to Indianapolis and earned their 11th Final Four berth under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"I can't put it into words," said Lance Thomas, one of three Duke seniors. "It took us four years to get here and we're not done yet."

Duke will play East Regional champion West Virginia in the national semifinals Saturday night. Duke has won 11 of its last 12 regional finals under Krzyzewski but hasn't won a national title since 2001. Coach K's first Final Four with Duke was in 1986 and he hadn't had a gap this long between trips.

To end the drought, Duke had to win at Reliant Stadium - only 3 1/2 hours from Baylor's campus. Most of the crowd of 47,492 was dressed in the green and gold of the Bears.

"We played against a great team," Krzyzewski said. "It was such a well-played game, and we were fortunate to win."

Smith and Scheyer helped the Blue Devils (33-5) offset a poor game from junior forward Kyle Singler (five points), who was 0-for-10 from the field. It was the first time in his college career he failed to hit a field goal.

LaceDarius Dunn had 22 points and Ekpe Udoh scored 18 for Baylor (28-8), whose program was in shambles when coach Scott Drew took over in the wake of murder and scandal less than seven years ago.

Drew took the Bears from tatters to the cusp of their first Final Four appearance in 60 years. After three consecutive 20-win seasons and an inspiring postseason run, maybe Baylor can be recognized more for its success now than the tragic summer of 2003 that is finally starting to feel like a long time ago.

"I really hope so and I really feel it has," Drew said, his voice quivering. "I do really want to thank all the fans in the state of Texas."

After tying the score for the 12th time on a free throw with 3:36 left, Smith missed his second attempt. But Thomas grabbed one of his nine rebounds and passed the ball right back to Smith, who hit a three-pointer to put Duke up 64-61. "I just wanted to make the plays," Thomas said. "I made it and I just got the ball to our shooters."

Scheyer, another senior, then extended the lead to six with his fifth three of the game.

The Blue Devils were 11-for-23 on threes and only 11-for-38 from inside the arc. But they didn't need a miracle shot on the 18th anniversary of Christian Laettner's game-winner against Kentucky in the 1992 tournament.

New York Sports