Originally published March 20, 2011 at 04:41p.m., updated March 20, 2011 at 06:13p.m.
Charlotte Duke is no stranger to this situation: Facing an underdog with uncanny touch from 3-point range, one that's racing downcourt in the closing seconds, scrambling for one last shot at some NCAA tournament magic.
This time, it was Michigan's turn to miss.
Nolan Smith scored 24 points and the top-seeded Blue Devils held their breath as the Wolverines' last shot clanged off the iron, sealing a 73-71 win Sunday that marked the 900th victory of coach Mike Krzyzewski's Hall of Fame career.
"The 900, it means that we're advancing," Krzyzewski said. "That's the main thing."
Kyle Singler added 13 points for the Blue Devils (32-4), who shot 51 percent, never trailed in the second half and advanced to the round of 16 for the 12th time in 14 years. Next stop: Anaheim, Calif., for the West regional semifinals Thursday night.
Parts of this game felt awfully familiar for Duke, which capped its run to the national championship last year with a dramatic two-point victory over Butler that wasn't settled until Gordon Hayward's halfcourt heave ricocheted off the glass and the iron at the buzzer.
"We told our kids it would be like playing Butler in the national championship — a very similar, tough-minded, really, really good basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "I'm proud of our effort and obvious ecstatic that we're moving on."
One key difference: The eighth-seeded Wolverines (21-14) gave themselves a much cleaner look on their final shot.
Michigan, which trailed by 15 with 10:51 to play, clawed within one point twice in the final 90 seconds before Smith missed a free throw with 8.7 seconds left to give the Wolverines one last chance.
Darius Morris zipped downcourt and put up a runner in the lane with 2 seconds left, but the shot bounced off the back iron and the rebound went to Smith at the buzzer.
Morris finished with 16 points to lead Michigan, which made seven 3-pointers — the most allowed by Duke in a month.
Kyrie Irving and Ryan Kelly scored 11 points apiece for the Blue Devils, who won their eighth straight game in the NCAA tournament.
"I don't want to take this Duke jersey off. As simple as that," Smith said. "Every game could be my last."
Krzyzewski improved to 900-283 in his 36th season and can catch his mentor and college coach for first on the career list next weekend. He would match Bob Knight with a victory in the regional final, and would pass him with one win in Houston that also would put the reigning national champions back in the title game.
"There will be a lot of guys who will win 900 games eventually, but to be the first two and for it to be a coach and his player to do it, it's something very unique," Krzyzewski said.
Still, Michigan nearly made Coach K wait until next year — or at least work overtime — to try for No. 900.
Coach John Beilein frustrated Duke by mixing his defenses, and Tim Hardaway Jr. reeled off seven consecutive points down the stretch, capped by a 3-pointer that made it 70-69 with 1:27 remaining.
"That's all we needed to do was make a shot," Beilein said "This has been (a) pretty common thread with us this year, that we've been able to get back because we play pretty sound defense and we can hit a couple 3s back to back and change a game."
Duke milked the clock before Irving's banked-in jumper with 32 seconds left, but Morris followed that with a layup that cut it to 72-71 with 10 seconds to go.
Duke fouled Smith with 8.7 seconds left, and he made his first attempt but missed the second. Zack Novak got the rebound and got it to Morris, who headed straight for the lane and put up Michigan's last shot. After the horn sounded, Morris lay face-down on the floor and repeatedly slapped the court with his palm in frustration.
"Darius got a great shot off, (a) shot he hits a lot in practice," teammate Stu Douglass said. "When it was in the air, I thought it was going down."
Hardaway scored 15 points, Evan Smotrycz had 13, Novak scored 12 and Jordan Morgan finished with 10 for the Wolverines, who don't have a senior on the roster. They were denied their first trip to the round of 16 since 1994.
"It's a group that never gave up the whole year," Novak said of a team that came back from a 1-6 start to Big Ten play to finish "an inch away from the Sweet 16 (and) defeating the defending national champion."
This was the first postseason meeting between the two big-name schools since the 1992 national championship game, won by Christian Laettner and the Blue Devils over the Wolverines and the Fab Five.
That became especially relevant in the wake of a recent ESPN documentary in which Jalen Rose said Duke "only recruited black players that were 'Uncle Toms'" and former Blue Devils star Grant Hill criticized him for those comments. Krzyzewski spent much of this week downplaying that story line while repeatedly declining comment on that era, saying it had no bearing on the present-day team.
This time, the Blue Devils slogged through a largely uninspired afternoon and allowed the scrappy Wolverines to hang around.
And with 16:59 to play, Krzyzewski had seen enough.
After Smith missed a layup and the rebound went out of bounds, Coach K called a timeout and could be seen zipping from side to side in the Duke huddle. At some point during the break, Krzyzewski took off his suit coat — a clear sign that he meant business — and coached the rest of the game without it.
"I just thought we needed more energy," Krzyzewski said.