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Duke races head-on into Collison, falls to Kansas

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nick Collison was going to keep on playing — no matter how tired he was.

And play he did, coming up with the game of his life.

Collison scored a career-high 33 points and had 19 rebounds without taking a break Thursday night, leading second-seeded Kansas to a 69-65 victory over third-seeded Duke in the West Regional semifinals.

"I think this was the fifth time in 15 years someone's played 40 minutes for us," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "As Nick said, 'If you don't play today, the season's over.' I told him in one timeout, 'You can rest in May.'

"At the end of the game, if he had given me the tired signal, all of a sudden my vision would have gotten a lot worse."

Kansas (28-7) will face Arizona on Saturday, with the winner going to the Final Four. The top-seeded Wildcats (28-3) beat fifth-seeded Notre Dame 88-71.

The Jayhawks led Arizona by as many as 20 points before losing a 91-74 decision to the Wildcats in Lawrence, Kan., two months ago.

A 6-foot-9, 255-pound senior forward recruited by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski out of high school, Collison shot 14-of-22, scoring mostly from inside over the smaller Blue Devils.

"Duke chooses to play four guards to make it tough to guard them," Williams said.

But, he added, that made it difficult for the Blue Devils to defend against Collison, who scored 21 of his team's 34 points in the second half — including 12 straight at one stage.

"That's one of the great performances you can have in a tournament," Krzyzewski said. "He played like a champion. It took that kind of an effort because our kids played like champions tonight.

"I've been to a lot of Final Fours and a lot of championship-caliber games. This was a championship-caliber game."

Collison's three-point play with 7:10 remaining triggered a personal 7-0 run that gave the Jayhawks a 63-57 lead. They were on top the rest of the way.

It was 68-61 after Michael Lee's free throw with 34.1 seconds to play before Dahntay Jones scored twice to draw Duke within three with 17.1 seconds left. But that was as close as the Blue Devils would get.

"With it all on the line, if you lose you're done, I'll be proud of this one for a long time," Collison said. "In the first half, they started out trying to keep me from getting the ball. I think the best thing I did was I just kept moving. Eventually, there were some openings down there."

Williams had been 0-3 against Krzyzewski, including a 72-65 defeat in the national championship game 12 years ago. Williams played at North Carolina and was an assistant coach under longtime Tar Heels coach Dean Smith before taking the job at Kansas in 1988.

North Carolina just happens to be Duke's chief rival.

"The fact that you beat Duke doesn't make it any better because I'm a North Carolina guy," Williams said. "When you're playing Duke, you always have this feeling that something's going to happen because of how successful they've been, and rightfully so."

The game matched two of college basketball's top coaches and elite programs. Duke has been to 13 Final Fours — nine under Krzyzewski — and Kansas to 11 — three under Williams.

Krzyzewski's 60 NCAA tournament wins are the second-most ever behind the 65 of the now-retired Smith. He has a 60-16 record, a 663-274 overall mark and is 590-175 in 23 years at Duke.

Williams has a 32-13 record in the tournament. His .806 winning percentage (416-100) is the best among active coaches with six or more years of experience and third-best ever.

Jones led Duke (26-7) with 23 points and seven rebounds. Daniel Ewing added 13 points and Chris Duhon scored 12. Freshman J.J. Redick shot 2-of-16 in scoring only five points.

Duke shot 44.8 percent to 43.3 percent for Kansas, but the Jayhawks outrebounded the Blue Devils 47-33.