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Published: Sunday, 3/28/2010

Duke returns to Final Four

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HOUSTON — Duke is back in the Final Four, ending an unusually long absence for coach Mike Krzyzewski's team — and keeping No. 1 seeds from being shut out of the title chase.

Nolan Smith scored 29 points and the Blue Devils returned to college basketball's big event for the first time in six years by beating Baylor 78-71 on Sunday in the South Regional final, ending the Bears' charming run to college basketball redemption.

Jon Scheyer added 20 points for Duke (33-5), which became the only No. 1 seed to advance to Indianapolis and earned its 11th Final Four trip under Krzyzewski.

In the national semifinals for the first time since 2004, the Blue Devils will play East Regional champion West Virginia on Saturday night. They have won 11 of their last 12 regional finals under Krzyzewski, but haven't won a national title since 2001.

Coach K made his first Final Four with Duke in 1986 and hadn't had this long of a gap between trips.

Smith and Scheyer helped the Blue Devils offset a poor game from junior forward Kyle Singler, who was 0 for 10 from the field and made only five free throws. 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 the Bears (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 tying the game for the 12th time on a free throw with 3:36 left, Smith missed his second attempt. But Lance Thomas grabbed the rebound and quickly passed the ball right back to Smith, who hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to put Duke up 64-61.

Scheyer extended the lead to six with his fifth 3-pointer.

Tweety Carter and Quincy Acy had 12 points each for Baylor at Reliant Stadium, where most of the crowd of 47,492 was dressed in the green and gold of the Bears.



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