Florida, Duke heading to Elite Eight

ARLINGTON, Texas -Florida Gulf Coast University’s Cinderella story came to an end Friday night, but not before the upstart Eagles gave their fans one final thrill.

FGCU, the first No. 15 seed in the history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament to reach the Sweet 16, threw an early scare into state rival Florida by jumping out to a 17-6 lead in first 10 minutes of play at Cowboys Stadium.

But that was the Eagles’ last hurrah as Florida (29-7) dominated the final 30 minutes en route to a 62-50 victory that puts the Gators in the Elite Eight and gives Billy Donovan’s No. 3 seed a date with No. 4 Michigan on Sunday to see who will advance to the Final Four.

Florida Gulf Coast (26-7)-riding the wave of momentum it created during the first two rounds of the tournament-jumped out to a 15-4 lead with 13:57 left in the half as Parkersburg South graduate Chase Fieler contributed a pair of 3-pointers.

The Eagles continued to dominate the action and still led by 10 with 5:23 left in the half after Christophe Vardell made three free throws after getting fouled attempting a 3-pointer.

But FGCU didn’t score again until there was just 37 seconds left in the half as Florida went on a 16-0 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Michael Frazier II. It was another 3-pointer -this one by Mike Rosario 1:33 before halftime that gave Florida its first lead of the contest at 27-24. Florida extended its lead to 30-24 before Sherwood Brown finally ended FGCU’s frustration with the final two points of the half.

Florida maintained its advantage throughout the final 20 minutes, increasing its lead to a comfortable 11 points with 13 minutes to play.

Fieler and Brown each scored 12 points to lead FGCU. Fieler, a junior, also contributed seven rebounds, two steals, an assist and a blocked shot.

Rosario led Florida with a game-high 15 points while Scottie Wilbekin scored 13 and Casey Prather added 11 for the Gators.

Duke 71, Michigan St. 61

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Seth Curry shot Duke right into the regional finals – and put Mike Krzyzewski on the verge of another milestone.

Curry scored 29 points and the Blue Devils beat Michigan State 71-61 on Friday night to advance to the Midwest Regional final in the NCAA tournament.

If No. 2 seed Duke (30-5) beats top-seeded Louisville (32-5) in Sunday’s regional final, Krzyzewski would tie John Wooden’s record with 12 Final Four trips.

Third-seeded Michigan State (27-9) just couldn’t keep up with Curry and Duke’s shooters. Keith Appling had 16 points for the Spartans, and Adreian Payne finished with 14.

Curry’s sixth 3-pointer of the game broke a 38-38 tie early in the second half, sending Duke on a 9-0 run. It also matched the school record for most 3s in an NCAA tourney game, most recently accomplished by Jason Williams on March 22, 2001, against UCLA.

The Blue Devils never trailed again.

Rasheed Sulaimon had 16 points and Mason Plumlee finished with 14 for Duke.

The win comes 16 months Duke beat Michigan State to give Krzyzewski the NCAA record for wins. Now, one year after falling to Lehigh in the second round of the tournament, Krzyzewski is on the verge of breaking a second-place tie with North Carolina’s Dean Smith and tying Wooden’s mark.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino has made six appearances in the Final Four. Another win would tie him for fourth with Roy Williams in a game that likely will be played in front of another highly partisan Cardinals crowd.

But this night belonged to Curry, who averaged 21.5 points in the Blue Devils’ first two tourney games. He scored 14 in the first half and when he hit his third 3 of the second half with 17:10 left, Duke took off.

The Blue Devils finally broke open the back-and-forth game by scoring five straight points midway through the second half, extending the lead to 56-46. It never trailed again in an entertaining contest between two of college basketball’s most successful coaches.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, coach Tom Izzo’s son’s prediction of a Duke victory proved to be correct, preventing a third Big Ten team from reaching the regional finals.

The first half was played to a near draw with four ties and eight lead changes.

Michigan State grabbed an 18-17 lead on Derrick Nix’s tip-in with 9:52 left in the first half, but Curry then scored nine points in an 11-2 run for the Blue Devils. He was fouled by Travis Trice while attempting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws to make it 28-20 with 4:59 remaining.

Back came the Spartans, who clamped down on defense and closed to 32-31 at halftime.

The game remained close until Curry sparked a 9-0 spree in the second half that made it 47-38 with 13:47 remaining. Curry opened the run with a tiebreaking 3-pointer and Mason Plumlee had consecutive baskets before Curry scored again.

Michigan State closed to 65-58 with 1:32 to go, but couldn’t get any closer.