Duke used a four-goal run late in the second quarter and a three-goal push midway through the fourth quarter to seal a 15-12 win over Denver in the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. The win marks the Devils' fifth appearance in the national finals -- all since 2005 -- and the team's 12th victory in its last 13 outings this season. Denver exits The Big Barbecue for the second season in a row after making an appearance at Championship Weekend, a tough pill to swallow for a team that strung together a sublime 16-3 effort while challenging detractors throughout the year.
Deadlocked at four after a Wes Berg bucket with 8:15 remaining in the first half, Duke put four unanswered goals on the board in a in a 6:19 span, getting a tally from Kyle Kennan to start the burst and three consecutive hammers from Jordan Wolf. The four-goal explosion came on just five Duke possessions, two scoring postures inuring directly from faceoff wins and two others coming on defensive stops (the first on a successful back-up off of an errant Berg attempt and the second off of a Denver turnover on a clearing attempt). Duke had wrestled dominating control from the Pios, limiting Denver to just two possessions in the rush and ensuring that the Pioneers could not put together a patented run to keep the game close.
The third quarter, though, saw momentum move in Denver's favor. Jack Bobzien quickly got the Pios back into the game just 1:02 into the period, drawing Denver within three (8-5). Duke would get back-to-back tallies from Keenan and Christian Walsh, giving the Devils a five-goal advantage with 23:33 remaining in regulation. Denver then snapped: Scoring five of the game's next six goals -- the only mitigation was a Keenan bucket on a breakout situation following a Denver face-off violation -- the Pios narrowed the margin on the scoreboard to 11-9 with 15 minutes to play. The Pioneers' pop came in a 4:22 stretch, starting at the 4:51 mark of the penultimate period and ending with just 29.3 left in the quarter. Berg paced the scoring in the surge with two goals, including a backhanded beauty that made children around the world join hands and sing a song of piece.
Denver didn't waste any time at the start of the final period, cutting Duke's lead to a single goal. With possession to start the fourth quarter thanks to a violation on Duke at the end of the third period, Berg sunk his fifth goal of the game. Despite working within a four-possession deficit, the Pios trailed Devils, 11-10, but appeared poised to erode thoughts of a presumptive Duke trip to Memorial Monday. And then the Blue Devils did what the Blue Devils do best -- completely crush the soul of the opposition.
Scoring four goals on the team's next four possessions (including a three-goal spurt on three consecutive possessions), the Devils used a 4-1 run in a five-minute stretch to build a 15-11 lead. Duke's scoring in that span came from four different players -- Myles Jones, Keenan, Deemer Class, and Chad Cohan -- and left the Pios with little time or ability to close the gap. A late goal from Tyler Pace with 6:09 left in the game created the final outcome, but the Devils had already done all the work necessary to assure themselves of a win.
TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE
|Possession Margin||-4 (25)||+4 (29)|
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||48.00||51.72|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||33.33%||39.47%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.44||1.31|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||24.00||20.69|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Possessions||14.81||11.11|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||31.03||28.00|
|Team Save Percentage||37.50%||36.84%|