Trey Burke, Seth Curry, Russ Smith and Friday night with the guards

Photo by Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

By Paul Gotham

One outscored his opponents outside the paint. Another outdid the opposing team in the final minutes. The other infected his team but still matched a career high. And all three pushed their teams to the Elite Eight.

Friday night Seth Curry, Trey Burke and Russ Smith all showed the power of the little man. They didn’t single-handily win games, but the three guards made the difference.

Curry scored 22 on 8-of-15 shooting as the Duke Blue Devils defeated the Michigan State Spartans, 71-61 in the Midwest Regional semi-finals.  Curry scored Duke’s first nine points of the second half going three-of-three behind the arc.

“We didn’t do too many things too different, honestly,” Curry said when asked if he changed anything after the break.  “I was just trying to set up my cuts a little bit better.  Guys were screening a little bit better, things of that nature.  I made some tough shots as well.  Just credit my teammates and just get me open and then give me a rhythm.”

Duke’s defense held the Spartans to just 15 points outside the paint on 6-of-22 shooting.

“Curry hurt us, no question about it,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.  “That’s why he’s a great player. I thought Curry did a great job of coming off those screens.  He stops, he pops.”

Photo by Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Devils will meet Louisville in Sunday’s Regional final. The Cardinals outlasted a game Oregon Ducks squad, 77-69 to advance.

Despite back-court mate Peyton Siva going to the bench with two fouls early in the first half and suffering from a nagging cough, Smith scored 31 on 9 -of- 16 shooting pacing the Cards.

“Unfortunately, Russ has infected our entire team with a ridiculous cold, and all our guys are really sick,” said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.  “It took a lot out of us because Oregon’s so good.  When Peyton got in foul trouble, Russ had to play way too many minutes, and everybody’s coughing and hacking at every timeout. We just had to get our guys through it, and hopefully we’ll get better.  The only problem is on every timeout Russ is hacking in our faces.  Every 30 seconds, just like this.  So keep your distance and you’ll all have pneumonia by the morning, like Gorgui (Dieng) and me.”

Smith is scoring 27 a game in three tournament games for the Cards.

“I spent eight years in the pros, and I don’t read a whole lot what goes on.  I look at Chad Ford’s list, and I don’t see Russ Smith, I don’t see him on the All‑America teams,” Pitino continued.  “Truly, I’ve been coaching a long time, I’m baffled, just baffled, because it wasn’t like he’s no Johnny‑come‑lately.  He carried us on his back to a Final Four last year.”

Burke and Michigan move on to play Florida in the South Final. It almost was not to be for the Wolverines. Burke was held scoreless for the entire first half as Michigan dug a six-point hole. The deficit grew to 14 with 6:51 to go.

Photo by Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Burke scored all 23 of his points after halftime as the Wolverines went on to defeat Kansas in overtime, 87-85

“My job is just to try to knock down open shots and get everyone else involved,” Burke said.  “I understand that this team is best when we’re all flowing offensively.  I tried to hit the right man. Going into the second half, they told me to be a little bit more aggressive, look for my shot as well as getting everybody else involved.  I just tried to get it into the paint and make plays for the team to win.”

His three from just inside Cowboys Stadium tied the game at 76 with five seconds remaining in regulation.

“There was only about ten seconds left,” Burke explained.  “Coach called a play for me, but it was really to try to get into the paint and get a quick layup.  And I seen that they were going to switch.  And it was about six seconds left.  I pretty much knew we didn’t have a lot of time to get a two and then a foul, just go through that. And I just tried to hit the shot.  I stepped back, got some separation and hit the shot.”

Burke nailed another trifecta to start Michigan’s scoring in the extra period and hit a jumper on the next possession. He finished with 10 assists.

Michigan and Florida will tip-off at 2:20 pm. Duke and Louisville get going at 5:05 pm.

Quotes provided by ASAP Sports. 





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