Duke's hopes of posting back-to-back NCAA championships came to a crushing end Thursday night as an energetic and red-hot Arizona team ran out to a stunning, 93-77 upset of the top-seeded Blue Devils.
Derrick Williams scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the first half to help the No. 5-seeded Wildcats overcome an 11-point deficit and reach the final eight for the first time since 1985.
Arizona shredded Duke's defense with drives, three-pointers and offensive rebounds in the second half to turn the game into a rout.
Duke senior guard Nolan Smith, the ACC Player of the Year, finished his career with one of his worst games of the season. Smith was held to eight points -- 13 below his average -- and shot 3 for 14 from the field as the Blue Devils' season ended in heartbreak with a 32-5 record.
Arizona (30-7) will meet No. 3 seed Connecticut (29-9), winners of eight in a row, in the West Regional final on Saturday.
The loss temporarily stopped Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's march toward the Division I-record career wins total held by Bob Knight, who coached Krzyzewski at the U.S. Military Academy. Knight has 902 career wins. Krzyzewski ends the season with 900.
If it wasn't for sophomore forward Williams, though, Duke might have blown the Wildcats out of the gym in the first half.
Williams scored 25 first-half points and shot 5-for-6 from three-point range, including an incredible, off-balance three-pointer one second before halftime over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-11 Duke forward Ryan Kelly. As the horn sounded, Williams turned, showing no emotion, to walk back to the locker room with Arizona trailing just 44-38 almost solely because of his outstanding play.
Duke led 31-20 after a driving basket by freshman guard Kyrie Irving with 6:21 left in the first half. At that point, just about everything seemed to be going the Blue Devils' way.
Senior forward Kyle Singler, who had been 5 for 39 on three-point attempts in his past 11 games, made two three-pointers 40 seconds apart in the opening four minutes. He hadn't made two three-pointers in any game since a Feb. 13 win at Miami.
Irving, who was cautiously worked back into the lineup in Duke's first two NCAA Tournament games after missing 3 1/2 months with a toe injury, appeared to be near full strength. He scored 14 of his 28 points in the first half, squeezing through tiny cracks in the defense to finish acrobatic drives at the rim.
But Smith was uncharacteristically cold in the first half. He was held to two first-half points and spent a few minutes near the end of the half on the bench because of foul trouble.
It only got worse for Smith and Duke in the second half. The Wildcats were able to spread out Duke's defense and drive to the basket almost at will. On the few occasions when the Blue Devils cut off the drive, Arizona players passed back out to wide-open shooters for three-point shots.
And when those shots missed, the Duke players were so far out of position from chasing the quicker Arizona players that the Wildcats had easy runs to the rim. They rebounded. They dunked.
And with 2:01 remaining and Duke trailing by 17 points, Krzyzewski sent substitutes into the game for Singler and Smith. Krzyzewski grabbed both of them around the waist for a moment, and then they went to the bench for the last time.
Arizona returned to the tournament this year after their 25-year run ended in 2009-10.