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Gonzaga's bid to reach first Final Four foiled by offensive woes in 66-52 loss to Duke

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HOUSTON — Gonzaga's offense stalled against Duke, and it cost the Bulldogs a trip to the Final Four.

Kyle Wiltjer scored 16 points, but Gonzaga was held without a field goal for the final 6:37 of Sunday's 66-52 loss to the top-seeded Blue Devils in the South Regional final.

"That was a tough way to end it with those empty possessions," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "But by and large, those are the possessions that we've converted all year."

Przemek Karnowski, who scored 18 points and dominated inside in a win over UCLA in the regional semifinal, got into foul trouble and never really got into a rhythm, finishing with four points and five rebounds.

"We have all the confidence in the world that we belong in that Final Four," said Wiltjer, a transfer from Kentucky. "We just weren't able to get there. That's the tough thing about sports, somebody's got to lose. Hopefully we all learn from this."

Justise Winslow and Matt Jones scored 16 points apiece for Duke (33-4), which led 31-26 at halftime. Tyus Jones scored 15 points, and Jahlil Okafor had nine points and eight rebounds.

The Blue Devils led by seven with about 7 1/2 minutes left when Gonzaga (35-3) scored the next five points to close to 53-51 with under six to play. Wiltjer had a wide-open layup a few seconds later that would have tied the game, but he missed it.

"There were a lot of missed shots in that game and I missed it," Wiltjer said of the shot.

Winslow took over after that, scoring the next seven points to push Duke's lead to 60-51, all but wrapping up the victory for the Blue Devils.

It was a difficult finish to Gonzaga's 17th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, its second trip to the Elite Eight and the first since 1999, which was the year before Few moved from an assistant to head coach.

While stung by the loss, the Bulldogs were encouraged by their accomplishments this season.

"This is definitely not how we planned it to go," senior Byron Wesley said. "(But) we have so much to be proud of and no reason to hang our head. There's only been one other team to make it this far in Gonzaga history; to be a part of history at such a prestigious school is really something special."

PHOTO: Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis holds his head down by his locker after a college basketball regional final game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Houston. Duke won 66-52 to advance to the Final Four. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis holds his head down by his locker after a college basketball regional final game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Houston. Duke won 66-52 to advance to the Final Four. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It was the final game for Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who had both played at least 135 games for Gonzaga. They were a combined 4-of-14 shooting for nine points.

"We accomplished a lot and obviously wanted to make it to the Final Four, but we can look back and be pretty happy with what we've been able to do," Pangos said. "We just fell a little short."

Gonzaga opened the second half with a 12-3 run to take a 38-34 lead. Bell got things going with a 3-pointer and Wesley had five points in that stretch, capped by a three-point play.

The Blue Devils responded with nine straight points for a 43-38 lead with 12 minutes remaining. Kyle Dranginis finally got Gonzaga back on the board, ending a scoring drought of more than five minutes with his layup with about 11 minutes left.

Winslow tweaked his left ankle with about 12 minutes left in the first half, but got it re-taped on the bench and was back on the floor quickly.

Duke was up by 11 with about 11 minutes left in the first half when Domantas Sabonis scored seven points in Gonzaga's 14-4 run that cut the lead to 27-26. Duke went more than three minutes without scoring at the beginning of the run by the Bulldogs.

But Sabonis picked up two quick fouls soon after that and went to the bench with three, and the Blue Devils scored the last four points of the first half.

TIP-INS

Gonzaga: Few is 19-16 in the NCAA Tournament. ... No. 2 Gonzaga fell to 0-7 against No. 1 seeds in the tournament. ... Pangos and Bell each tied a school record by playing in their 10th tournament game. ... The Bulldogs were 2 of 10 on 3-pointers, marking just the second time this season that they've made fewer than four 3-pointers in a game.

Duke: Duke will be in a Final Four in Indianapolis for the third time after winning national titles there in both 1991 and 2010. ... The Blue Devils are now 3-0 against Gonzaga.

UP NEXT

Gonzaga: Season over.

Duke: Plays Michigan State (27-11) on Saturday at the Final Four in Indianapolis.

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