PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- The Player of the Year and arguably the best player in the nation have Duke one win away from college basketball's promised land.
Naismith Award winner Shane Battier and Jason Williams again starred for the Blue Devils, who remained in control throughout the second half and defeated UCLA, 76-63, in an NCAA Tournament East Region semifinal game at the First Union Center.
Battier collected 24 points and 11 rebounds and Williams tied a career high with 34 points, including 19 straight for Duke over a six-minute span of the second half, as the Blue Devils advanced to a Saturday meeting with Southern California.
The winner of that game will play in the Final Four next weekend in Minneapolis.
"At different times this season, Jason and Shane have carried us in big games," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "It (reaching the Elite Eight) is an amazing honor and something we've earned and we would love to get to the Final Four." Top-seeded Duke (32-4) scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 40-28 lead with 17:45 to play. Although the Bruins answered with a 9-0 burst to pull within three, Williams made sure Duke would play in the "Elite Eight" for the third time in four seasons.
"I got a lot of open looks," said Williams. "I was just taking my shots and they were just going down." The sophomore point guard drilled a 3-pointer to begin his personal assault on UCLA (23-9), which played the entire second half with leading scorer Jason Kapono in foul trouble after he picked up his fourth in the final minute of the first half.
After Kapono made the first of two free throws, Williams scored seven straight points on an alley-oop layup, a driving layup and a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave Duke a 50-38 advantage with just under 13 left.
"Jason Williams is a tough, confident point guard," Kapono said. "He's tough because he is not all shot or all drive to the hoop. He's both. He can drive the paint and finish or kick it out. He's tough to stop." Williams was 11-of-21 from the floor and 6-of-13 from behind the 3-point line. He made all six of his free throws in tying his career high set in a victory over Boston College on January 16.
"We got a lot of open looks," Williams added. "When my shots weren't falling early I just had to keep playing. Our defense was great in this game." A 3-pointer by Kapono and Matt Barnes' layup appeared to steady fourth-seeded UCLA, but Williams hit another 3-pointer and followed with a pair of free throws. He scored on two more layups before a basket by Battier with 6:24 left represented the first points by a Duke player other than Williams in more than 11 minutes.
Battier essentially ended any chances of a UCLA comeback by completing a three-point play to give the Blue Devils a 68-55 lead with 3:24 remaining.
"We came up short of the goal of winning a national title, but I am as proud of this team as any I've coached in my career, because of the fact that we've come so far from (starting) 4-4," said UCLA coach Steve Lavin.
Earl Watson scored 17 points in his final collegiate game and Kapono added 12 for the Bruins, whose only lead was 2-0 before Duke responded with 12 straight points, including 3-pointers by Williams and Battier.
Watson is the only player to start every game (129) in his UCLA career.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Williams and Battier helped open a 21-12 lead for Duke 14 1/2 minutes into the game and Battier scored five straight points for a 31-20 advantage in the final minute of the first half.
The Blue Devils took a 33-26 lead into the break behind 14 points from Battier. After Billy Knight's layup opened the second-half scoring for UCLA, a jumper by Williams was followed by consecutive scores from Mike Dunleavy Jr. to make it 40-28.
"We've been unselfish all year," Dunleavy said. "This tournament we've been all about taking not good shots, but great shots." Duke shot an uncharacteristically low 40 percent (22-of-55) from the field and was just 8-of-31 on 3-pointers. But it took advantage of 23 turnovers and won despite being outrebounded, 39-37.
The Blue Devils were bolstered by the return of 6-9 center Carlos Boozer, who had two points and six rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Boozer was playing for the first time since suffered a fractured bone in his left foot on February 27.
Williams committed eight turnovers, but the Blue Devils outscored the Bruins at the foul line, 24-12.
Knight scored 13 points and Dan Gadzuric had 10 and nine rebounds for UCLA, which connected on just 38 percent (23-of-60) of its shots, including 5-of-14 from beyond the 3-point line.
This was the third NCAA Tournament meeting between the schools. In the 1990 East Region semifinals, Duke defeated UCLA, 90-81. UCLA won 98-83 in 1964 to capture its first NCAA title.
The two games at the First Union Center were played before 20,270, the largest crowd to see a basketball game in the state of Pennyslvania.