HOUSTON (AP) — The other Coach K in this Sweet 16 matchup could just be getting started even though Utah’s season is over.
Larry Krystkowiak and his Utes, so close to an NCAA regional final only three years after winning only six games, lost 63-57 to Duke and the more well-known Coach K on Friday night.
Asked where he goes from here, Krystkowiak exhaled before answering.
“Well heck if I know,” he said. “I’m in decompress mode at this point. Just enjoyed the experience with these kids and am going to soak this up and reflect.”
The Utes (26-9) were in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005, and only three years after Krystkowiak’s miserable debut season before he was able to put together his own roster.
Leading scorer Delon Wright was the Utes’ only senior starter this season, and Dallin Bachynski the only other graduating player who played regularly.
“We definitely went down swinging.” Wright said.
“Our guys are not quitters,” Bachynski said. “Not a single one of us would stop fighting.”
Brandon Taylor had 15 points for the Utes (26-9), the No. 5 seed with an at-large berth out of the Pac-12.
Wright, who got his third foul on a questionable call with about 5 minutes left in the first half, finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Bachynski added 11 points for the Utes, and 7-foot freshman Jakob Poeltl had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Mike Krzyzewski and Duke (32-4) are one win away from getting back to the NCAA Final Four, this time with a talented group of freshmen.
Justise Winslow, the freshman from Houston playing at home the day after his 19th birthday, had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the South Regional’s top-seeded Blue Devils.
Winslow is one of three freshman starters for Duke, a trio that includes standout big man Jahlil Okafor and guard Tyus Jones, who had 15 points. Okafor had six points and eight rebounds.
“He gave us his trust and just believed in us,” Winslow said of Krzyzewski. “When you have that, you play like yourself.”
The Blue Devils play No. 2 seed Gonzaga (35-2) on Sunday in the South Regional final, with the winner going to Indianapolis for the Final Four. The Bulldogs beat 11th-seeded UCLA 74-62 in the earlier game Friday night at NRG Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Wright got his third foul with 4:57 left in the first half in a scramble for the ball — under the Duke basket and in front of the Utah bench. Wright and Winslow were both on the floor, the Duke freshman on his back, when the foul was called.
Duke was up 27-17 on a layup by Okafor with 3:04 left, but didn’t score again until after halftime.
Utah cut the deficit in half after Bachynski had a three-point play — after Okafor’s second foul with 1:22 left — and then added two more free throws with 33 seconds left.
Wright got back in the game after halftime, making a jumper on the first shot for a 27-24 score. The Utes never got closer, and trailed by as many as 15 before getting within five points in the final minute.
Even after Utah didn’t score until nearly 5 minutes into the game, Duke was down 8-5 before going ahead to stay with an 8-0 run in just over 2 1/2 minutes when all the Blue Devils freshman starters scored.
Winslow’s 3-pointer at 12:36 tied the game 8-8 before Amile Jefferson’s tiebreaking layup. Okafor had a jumper before Jones’ layup made it 14-8 with 9:54 left.
Another 8-0 run after halftime pushed the Blue Devils to a 49-34 lead with 8:41 left.
“I think we showed great character at the end,” Poeltl said.
“Some things just started going our way,” Wright said. “We started getting rebounds stops … and we were able to make a run.”
NOT OVER YET
The players had already had their customary postgame handshake, and several Utah players were headed down the steps off the elevated court when officials blew their whistle after reviewing a call. Cook grabbed a rebound of a missed 3-pointer with 6 seconds left, and Utah was trying to foul. They didn’t get a whistle until the buzzer sounded. Officials reviewed and determined there was six-tenths of a second on the clock when they called the foul. Cook made one of two free throws.
Utah: The Utes missed their first nine shots before Poeltl scored inside with 15:19 left in the first half. And they trailed only 3-2, before Bachynski scored six points in a row for an 8-5 lead. Utah shot 35 percent overall (21 of 60).
Duke: Krzyzewski has a record 85 NCAA Tournament wins, 20 more than Dean Smith and Roy Williams.
Utah: Season Over.
Duke: Play Gonzaga in South Regional final Sunday.