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Duke’s Title Run Ends With Loss to Arizona; Connecticut Wins

Connecticut, Florida Advance to Reach NCAA Regional Finals
Jesse Perry of the Arizona Wildcats goes to the basket against Miles Plumlee and Kyle Singler of the Duke Blue Devils. Photographer: Harry How/Getty Images

Duke University’s reign as national champion ended with a 93-77 loss to the University of Arizona that left coach Mike Krzyzewski stuck on 900 wins, two short of tying the men’s major college basketball career mark.

Derrick Williams had 32 points and 13 rebounds and Arizona (30-7) took control with a 19-2 run early in the second half last night to give the Blue Devils (32-5) their most lopsided defeat of the season.

“Williams, he’s just a superb player, he’s better than anybody we’ve played,” Krzyzewski said in a news conference. “There’s a physicality to his game. He’s a clean, beautiful player.”

Arizona will play the University of Connecticut (29-9) tomorrow in the West Regional final at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Kemba Walker scored 36 points to lead the Huskies to a 74-67 win yesterday against San Diego State University.

The University of Florida (29-7) and Butler University (26-9) advanced to the Southeast Regional final in New Orleans. Florida won 83-74 in overtime against Brigham Young University, which got 32 points from national scoring leader Jimmer Fredette. Butler, which lost the national championship game last year to Duke, was a 61-54 winner against the University of Wisconsin.

Buckeyes In Action

There are four more Round of 16 games today, including a contest between overall top seed Ohio State and seven-time national champion Kentucky. The winners will play in the regional finals, and the four regional champions advance to the national semifinals April 2 in Houston.

Arizona, which trailed 44-38 at halftime, outscored the Blue Devils 55-33 in the second half. The fifth-seeded Wildcats shot 58 percent after halftime and outrebounded top-seeded Duke 25-9.

“The second half was like a second game, we were a total team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in a news conference. “We were revved up.”

Williams, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, hit 11 of 17 shots -- going 5-for-6 on 3-pointers -- for Arizona, which entered the game as a 9 1/2-point underdog, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. Lamont Jones added 16 points for the Wildcats and Solomon Hill had 13.

Jones’s next assignment will be guarding Connecticut’s Walker, his “best friend” and former high school teammate from Rice High School in New York City. “He’s like my brother,” Jones said.

Duke’s Biggest Loss

Freshman point guard Kyrie Irving had 28 points to lead Duke, whose worst previous loss this season was 93-78 at St. John’s on Jan. 30. Duke became the second No. 1 regional seed eliminated from the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. The University of Pittsburgh, the top team in the Southeast Regional, lost last weekend.

“The tournament is cruel,” said Krzyzewski. “It’s an abrupt end for everybody when you don’t win. The better team won tonight.”

Krzyzewski needs two wins to tie the men’s Division I career mark of 902 held by his former Army coach and mentor, Bob Knight.

Connecticut, the third seed in the West, closed its win with a 9-3 scoring run over the final three minutes. The turning point came midway through the second half with second-seeded San Diego State leading 53-49.

The Aztecs’ Jamaal Franklin bumped into Walker, who fell backward onto the court, as the teams headed to their benches for a timeout. Franklin was given a technical foul and Walker hit those two free throws, starting an 11-1 run by Big East conference champion Connecticut.

‘Ran Into Me’

“I was walking on my way to the huddle and one of their players ran into me,” Walker said. “The contact was definitely enough to go down.”

Jeremy Lamb, who hit nine of 11 shots and all three of his 3-pointers, added 24 points for Connecticut, which has won eight straight postseason games. Kawhi Leonard scored 12 points for San Diego State, four below his season average.

“When your season comes to a screeching halt like it will for every team with one exception, it hurts,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “For our team this year, for what they’ve accomplished, it hurts exponentially more.”

Butler, which lost to Duke in last year’s NCAA championship game, is a win away from the Final Four after Matt Howard’s 20-point, 12-rebound effort against fourth-seeded Wisconsin.

Butler, the eighth seed in the Southeast, held Wisconsin to 30 percent shooting.

The Bulldogs’ next opponent, second-seeded Florida, outscored BYU 15-6 in overtime to return to the regional finals for the first time since 2007.

“We’re thrilled to still be playing, and that’s the bottom line,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “I don’t think that this group goes into games not believing. We’re going to see if we can’t try to get one on Saturday and move on.”

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