Utah kept trying to close the gap, but Duke kept hitting free throws – and in the end, that was the difference.
“Our team, we stay after practice and shoot free throws,” Duke guard Quinn Cook said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Our coach has the ultimate confidence in everybody. Guys – myself, Tyus (Jones), Matt (Jones), Justise (Winslow) – we went to the line with confidence today.”
Duke shot 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) from the foul line and converted several freebies in the final minutes to beat Utah, 63-57, in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. Winslow led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while (Tyus) Jones and Cook had 15 and 11 points, respectively. That duo was a combined 16-of-18 (88.8 percent) from the foul line.
Cook played with four fouls for a long stretch in the second half.
“I couldn’t’ be as aggressive,” he said. “I like to play very aggressive, so I just had to play smart and still put pressure on Delon Wright. He’s one of the best guards in the country. My big guys did a tremendous job of letting me know where screens were, and I didn’t get my fifth one.”
Wright, who picked up his third foul in the first half, was held to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Utah shot just 35 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three-point range.
Duke, meanwhile, got a monster game from Winslow – both inside and out. Not only did the freshman finish with a double-double, but he also made three three-pointers and blocked two shots.
“He’s been locked in,” Cook said. “He’s been playing his best basketball as of late. When he plays like that, we’re a tough team. He’s been locked in.”
Jahlil Okafor, on the other hand, was double-teamed most of the night and didn’t have much room to operate. He scored just six points but found teammates for easy baskets.
“Jahlil knows how to play out of a double team,” Cook said. “He doesn’t force the issue. He’s very unselfish. When they double, a lot of people are open. Amile (Jefferson) got some easy buckets off of doubles and Justise hit some big time shots. Myself and Tyus just wanted to control the pace of the game and lead our team.”
Duke (32-4) is now one game from its first Final Four since 2010. The Blue Devils play No. 2 Gonzaga (35-2) Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET.
“It’s going to be a great game, a 40-minute battle, 40 minutes of toughness,” Cook said. “It’s going to come down to who wants it more. I know those guys, they’re older and some of those guys haven’t been to a Final Four. Nobody on our team’s been to a Final Four. I know we all want it. It’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous game.”
The Blue Devils didn’t watch Gonzaga play against UCLA on Friday, but they know what the Zags being to the table.
“We’re familiar with those guys,” Cook said. “We’re fans of the game. We watch every team out there, especially the teams that are highly regarded and on TV a lot. So we’re familiar with those guys. We watched a little bit before the game, and they’re a tough team and they’re getting better.”