WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Early on, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski fought with Kansas counterpart Roy Williams. Then the players took over.
In a classic battle between perennial powers, Krzyzewski's top-seeded Blue Devils received two huge plays from freshman Carlos Boozer to knock off No. 8 Kansas, 69-64, in an East Region second-round game at the Lawrence-Joel Coliseum.
Duke (29-4) advanced to the "Sweet 16" for the third straight season and will play Florida on Friday at Syracuse, New York.
Conversely, the Jayhawks (24-10) are headed home before the regional semifinals for the third straight season. And each loss during that span has been tougher than the previous one.
"This was a great college basketball game," said Williams. "I'm not going to say it was a pretty game, but it doesn't have to be pretty in order to be great." Nick Bradford's three-point play with 1:18 left gave Kansas a 64-63 lead and it appeared a third No. 1 seed was on the verge of being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.
But following a timeout, Boozer, a 6-9 center from Juneau, Alaska, had a follow shot that put the Blue Devils back on top with 53 seconds to play.
Moments later, Boozer intercepted a pass near mid-court and fellow freshman Jason Williams picked up the loose ball before giving it to Chris Carrawell, the ACC Player of the Year who went 2-of-2 from the foul line with 24 seconds left.
"They were setting screens for (Jeff Boschee) and he was coming up on top," Boozer said of the steal. "They threw it right to me." After Kirk Hinrich missed a 3-pointer for Kansas, Jason Williams sealed it by making two more from the line with 2.2 seconds remaining.
"It was a great look, I thought it was going in," said Hinrich. "You just don't know how badly I wanted to hit the shot for all of my teammates. It just didn't happen that way." Shane Battier collected 21 points, eight rebounds and eight blocked shots for Duke, which improved to 3-1 against the Jayhawks in NCAA Tournament play. The first three NCAA battles between the schools occurred in the national semifinals or championship game.
"First of all, there is not much difference between us and Kansas," Krzyzewski said. "We won more games this year. For them to be a No. 8 seed is kind of ridiculous. They are one of the better teams." The Blue Devils defeated Kansas to win the 1991 national title. The schools rank third and fourth, respectively, on the NCAA's all-time win list.
The previous NCAA Tournament clashes between the teams make up only part of the animosity between the coaches. Roy Williams, who was born in Spruce Pine, played and coached at North Carolina, the Blue Devils' archrival.
Williams and Krzyzewski exchanged heated words midway through the first half, but the rest of the contest was filled with huge momentum swings and big plays.
"I love Roy Williams," said Krzyzewski. "He and I are great friends. This wasn't about me and Roy Williams. This was about the way the game was being called. I think he was trying to protect his turf and I was trying to protect mine." Carrawell and Boozer scored 15 points apiece and Nate James added 12. Boozer also grabbed 13 rebounds and Williams dished out six assists for the Blue Devils, who overcame 23 turnovers and 37 percent (20-of-54) shooting.
"I took it as a challenge to play more physically than them and be more active," Boozer said. "They've got more big guys inside, so we've got to be more physical." Kansas, which shot 36 percent (25-of-69), was outrebounded, 44-41, and outscored at the line, 27-8.
There was one big run in the game. Duke put together a 13-4 spurt in the first half and took a 27-24 lead on two free throws by James. But baskets by Bradford and Drew Gooden quickly put Kansas on top.
During the second half, Duke slowly built a 59-50 lead with 6:14 remaining as Batter made four straight free throws. The Jayhawks, however, had an answer.
Ashante Johnson threw down a dunk, Kenny Gregory made the second of two free throws, Boschee benefited from a goaltending call and Gregory scored on a runner. Boschee's 3-pointer with 3:31 to play tied it.
The Blue Devils went back up by four points as James threw up a runner and Boozer went 2-of-2 from the line with just under two minutes left. But Nick Collison had a dunk and Bradford gave Kansas its last lead.
Duke, however, responded to hand the Jayhawks their third straight crushing defeat in NCAA Tournament play.
"Our team grew up a lot once we got here," said Roy Williams. "All season long we've talked about competing and being tougher physically and mentally. When we came here, we made some giant strides." In 1998, top-seeded Kansas was beaten by Rhode Island in the second round, 80-75. A year later, it suffered a 92-86 overtime loss to Kentucky.
Hinrich led the Jayhawks with 12 points and six assists. No other player was in double figures for Kansas.
"The level of play out there today, effort-wise, was regional championship, Final Four," Krzyzewski said. "The reason was a high level of talent and kids motivated to win. It was a big-time game today. I've been in over 60 of them in the NCAA and this was a big-time game." .