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March 30, 2013

Curry's hot shooting propels Duke to Elite Eight

INDIANAPOLIS -- Defensive toughness, offensive productivity, combined with senior Seth Curry finding his hot shooting hand all made a nice combination for the Duke Blue Devils' 10-point, Sweet Sixteen win Friday evening over Big Ten foe Michigan State. Dominating the second-half, limiting Michigan State to just seven field goals and on the heels of Curry's nearly career-high performance of 29 points, Duke (30-5) handed the Spartans (27-9) a 71-61 defeat at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Heading into Friday's showdown, Curry knew that the Spartans were physical and that Duke had to step it up on the defensive end.

"Coming into the game, everybody was talking about how physical they (Michigan State) were, how tough they were and all that stuff," Curry said. "But we took that challenge."

Took that challenge indeed, and in a back and forth affair from the start the senior guard found the bottom of the net early and often. It was Curry's fade-away three-pointer at the 9:35 mark that gave the Blue Devils the early 20-18 edge.

Keeping with its game strategy, Curry notes Duke just executing its offensive plan being the main reason he was able to contribute offensively.

"We didn't do too many things too different, honestly," Curry said. "I was just trying to set up my cuts 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 rhythm."

Not one to shy away from big performances, Duke relied heavily on Curry's first half offensive showing. At one point, he accounted for half of the Blue Devils' 28 points, compiling 14, with just under four minutes left until intermission.

"I don't know honestly," Curry said when asked about when he knew he really had it going tonight. "I was trying to hold my shot. I got a few to go early. When I saw the ball go early, I felt good. The coach called a few calls for me to get me going as well."

Keeping his team's pace offensively, Curry was relentless from behind the arc, drilling a three-pointer at the 6:27 mark to give Duke the slight seven point lead. The field goal, however, was Duke's last before the half and the game began to shift in the Spartans favor.

Despite Curry making three free throws and two other Blue Devils adding in four points from the charity stripe, Duke struggled from the field going 0-5 in the closing six minutes of the half.

Taking advantage of offensive miscues, the Spartans were able to chip into Duke's lead with strong play from Indianapolis native Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, as the duo combined for nine points, leaving Duke heading into the half up just one, 32-31.

With Michigan State carrying the momentum into the break, it was Curry who began the second half right where he finished up the first one for Duke.

After Derrick Nix made a layup to give Michigan State its first lead since the 9:52 mark of the first half, Curry answered, sinking three three-pointers in a 2:09 time span to narrowly put the Blue Devils back on top by three, leading 41-38.

"He kept us in the game in the second half," teammate Tyler Thornton said. "We were going back and forth with them for a second and they would hit a shot and Seth would hit a shot. He basically kept us in the game with his offensive play."

Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon followed in Curry's offensive footsteps all becoming factors on the offensive end to extend Duke's lead to 10 points. Up 56-46 with 8:43 remaining, its first double-digit lead of the contest, it appeared Duke was in the driver's seat.

"I was just fortunate to make shots tonight," Sulaimon said. "We just tried to take control of the game - that is the advantage of having three veteran players on the team that can help us keep our composure. I didn't really have a good shooting night from the field and Seth was our guy today. When they were making runs and trying to get back in the game he was the guy to ice it out and keep them under control."

The offensive prowess coupled with Duke's second half defense had no match from the Spartans. Duke limited the Spartans to a dismal 30.4-percent shooting performance from the field including going 1-6 from behind the arc, while forcing seven second-half turnovers.

Curry was also able to overcome slathering defense by Harris and continue to make a difference offensively.

"We know a lot of people don't really like to chase Seth off those screens and it's so hard to guard him because he is so crafty," Thornton said. "He is real quick. He really worked it down there and I think he did frustrate them. Gary Harris was playing great defense on him, but Seth was able to hit shots."

Michigan State recognized Curry's ability to score and how tough he was to defend as well.

"He (Coach Izzo) was just telling me I have to stay on him," Harris said. "I just can't allow him to get separation. Curry did a great job using his body to create separation and you could definitely see he is a veteran player. He knows a lot of tricks and I kind of fell for a lot of them today."

Curry was one of three Duke players in double-figures on the night. The hot-shooting guard nearly eclipsed his career high of 31 points, finishing just two short of matching it.

"To have Seth -- Seth was at a different level than anybody on the court offensively," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "To get 29 points in a game like this against an outstanding team is just an incredible performance."

Stuffing the stat sheet, not only did Curry finish the contest as the game's leading scorer, but he also tied his career-high in three-point field goals made, recording six. In addition to the stellar performance behind the arc, he went spotless at the free throw line, going 7-7.

Duke will continue to look to Curry to be an offensive force, as the Blue Devils face the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, Louisville, Sunday, March 31, in the Elite Eight. The game will serve as a rematch for the two teams who last squared off in November when Duke came away with the five point win.


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