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2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Duke Outguns Denver, 15-12

The Blue Devils have advanced to their fifth national championship game.

Rob Carr

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

TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE: DENVER v. DUKE
METRIC DENVER DUKE
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%