By Joedy McCreary/The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Duke’s “Big Three” kept hitting big 3s.
Now, the Blue Devils are one win from their fourth national championship.
Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith have carried Duke all season, and after a 78-57 victory over West Virginia on Saturday night in the Final Four, they’ve brought the program to the brink of its first title since 2001.
Duke will play Butler on Monday night in the championship game.
Singler bounced back from one of the worst games of his career with one of his most meaningful, scoring 21 points and hitting three 3-pointers against a Mountaineers defense that appeared to be caught off guard by Duke’s knack for kicking rebounds out to the perimeter.
Scheyer had 23 points and was 5 for 9 from 3-point range while Smith finished with 19 points and four 3s. The Blue Devils hit 13 3s — their most in two months — and shot 52 percent from long range. They’ve made at least 40 percent of their 3s in four of their five NCAA tournament games.
“It was a great team effort,” Scheyer said.
This was just the kind of performance the Blue Devils have come to expect from a trio that has been the nation’s best. Scheyer, Singler and Smith entered combining for about 53 points per game and have scored nearly 69 percent of the team’s points.
Opponents quickly figured they couldn’t stop all three. Slowing down two was nearly impossible; only one team all season held two of them under double figures.
West Virginia’s otherwise tough defense had trouble finding answers for any of them.
Instead, every time Duke needed a big basket, one of the three was ready to step up and deliver it.
“We needed it because West Virginia’s a great team. You’re not going to beat West Virginia without a great performance,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Singler, who missed all 10 of his shots in the South Regional final against Baylor, scored 14 of his team’s first 28 points in this one.
Smith — who dedicated the game to his late father, an NCAA champion three decades ago with Louisville — hit 3s on three consecutive trips downcourt during the 16-3 run late in the first half that put the Blue Devils in control. And after West Virginia made it a two-possession game and threatened to get back in it with less than 16 minutes left, Scheyer swished a 3 from the right corner to make it 49-40.
Singler and Scheyer then started the celebration with — what else? — a pair 3s, with Scheyer’s making it 75-57 with about 2 minutes to go.