PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Duke is heading back to the site of its last national championship in 1992.
Sophomore Jason Williams followed up the best game of his career with 28 points and Shane Battier recorded his fourth straight double-double as the top-seeded Blue Devils wore down Southern California, 79-69, in the NCAA Tournament East Region final at the First Union Center.
Duke (33-4) advanced to its 13th Final Four and set up a fourth meeting with Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland in the national semifinals next week at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
"I'm so happy for our guys," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We beat a veteran team. They scared the heck out of us." The Blue Devils last appeared in the Final Four in 1999, when it lost to Connecticut in the national championship game as a heavy favorite.
"This is why I came back for my final year," Battier said. "I wasn't going to let anything small or big get in our way to Minneapolis. For me, after going to the Final Four once and tasting what it felt like to go, I wanted these guys to be a part of it so much and experience what I experienced two years ago. That was as big a motivating factor as any for our team." The Terrapins reached the Final Four for the first time in school history by upsetting top-seeded Stanford in the West Region final.
Ironically, Duke followed the same path it traveled in 1992, when the Blue Devils also came through Greensboro, North Carolina and Philadelphia to reach the Final Four.
Duke won two of the first three meetings with Maryland, but the Terrapins easily could have won all three.
Maryland blew a 10-point lead in the final minute of an 98-96 overtime home loss before winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium in late February. Duke gained a measure of revenge with an 84-82 victory in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.
Krzyzewski insisted his players were not thinking about the possible of playing Maryland yet again.
"We're happy for Maryland, but these kids aren't listening to scores," Krzyzewski said. "If anyone even heard the score, they are running sprints tomorrow. You don't worry about what people are doing. Otherwise, you will be watching the tournament, instead of playing in it." The loss ended Southern California's surprising run in the NCAA Tournament. The sixth-seeded Trojans (24-10) tried to hang with Duke, but the Blue Devils had too many weapons and eliminated their second straight Pac-10 Conference opponent.
"This was a great run," USC forward Brian Scalabrine said. "It's going to help USC out tremendously as far as everything (the program) is trying to do. It's going to help out all of the guys who are coming back next year. They know what it's like." USC coach Henry Bibby was hoping to take the Trojans to the Final Four after winning national championships as a player at UCLA from 1970-72.
"We played one of the best teams tonight that we've played all year," Bibby said. "I don't know if there is anybody out there that can beat Duke. I thought we were in the game for a while, but they just keep coming at you. Jason Williams and Battier, those guys are really good players, and the other guys are good role players." Williams matched a career high with 34 points in Thursday's 76-63 victory over UCLA and showed he had plenty left in the tank against the Trojans. Battier collected 20 points and 10 rebounds, marking the sixth time the senior has scored at least 20 points in an NCAA Tournament game.
The Trojans closed to 48-45 with 15:07 left on a 3-pointer by Sam Clancy, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. But Williams and freshman Chris Duhon answered with back-to-back 3-pointers, giving Duke a 54-45 lead with 14:06 to go.
"There were games where Shane and I shined, but everybody else also has had great games," Williams said. "It was a matter of different people stepping up when they needed to. When you have guys like (Mike) Dunleavy and Duhon, it makes you drool at the mouth. All I had to do was take a step back, penetrate and kick it out to them. It was great." After leading by as many as 12 points, Duke had trouble closing out the victory, committing three straight turnovers in the final minutes.
But USC got no closer than 72-64 on David Bluthenthal's layup with 3:32 remaining. Duhon answered with another 3-pointer, making it 75-64 with 2:59 left.
"For the most part, Jason and Shane have had great games, but Chris and those threes down the stretch were huge," Dunleavy said. "For a freshman who has never been in a situation like this before and to knock them down, I'm real happy for him. I'm glad he knocked them down." Battier and Williams were unstoppable in the first half, combining for 33 of Duke's 43 points. Williams picked up where he left against UCLA, scoring 16 points in the opening half. But the Blue Devils could not shake the Trojans and led by only five at the break.
"The first half both of them were making tough shots," Clancy said. "We weren't following the scouting report as we planned it. We knew they were great players, but watching them on film can't compare to coming out here and actually guarding them." After shooting 55 percent in the first half, the Blue Devils started slowly in the second, making only three of their first 12 shots. Battier was 1-of-8 in the second half and Williams 4-of-13, but USC could not take advantage as Duke opened its biggest lead, 60-48, on Dunleavy's jumper with 10:42 to go.
After Bluthenthal hit two free throws to make it 77-68 with 2:20 left, Williams committed three straight turnovers. USC came up empty each time.
Duhon scored 13 points and Dunleavy added 11 for Duke, which dropped to 44 percent (28-of-63) after shooting only 35 percent in the second half.
Bluthenthal scored 17 points while Brian Scalabrine added 13 for the Trojans.