INDIANAPOLIS -- Well, that was tough to watch. Da'Sean Butler's brutal-looking second-half injury sealed a 78-57 blowout Duke victory, and partially obscured what was a truly beautiful performance by a dominant Blue Devil team. Further analysis therein:
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: How many ways are there to extol Duke's brilliance tonight? How many phrases can stand in for "Duke was just awesome." Because it was, from start to finish. The Blue Devils played under control. They operated with calm, clinical efficiency on the offensive end. They never forced. They got to the rim and finished plays. They made a torrent of 3s (tying the Final Four record with 13). They defended at every position, helping and rotating and making things continually difficult for a West Virginia team that could never quite catch up. This wasn't just Duke's best game of the tournament, but the best game of the season. It was, without straining to find another adjective, awesome. In every way.
TURNING POINT: This is no big secret. With 8:59 remaining in the second half, Butler drove baseline and met Brian Zoubek under the hoop. Butler collapsed in a heap. Replays showed that he buckled his knee. Things got solemn in a hurry. As Butler writhed on the ground, biting his fist in pain, his knee being looked at by the team doctor, Bob Huggins came out of the coach's box and leaned down into his player's face. They were inches apart. Butler was crying. Huggins was wiping his cheeks. We may never know what passed between the two, but it was one of the more touching and difficult sports sights I've ever seen.
Duke was already beginning to pull away at that point, but the Butler injury sealed the deal. With their star player and emotional leader being wheeled into the locker room on a golf court, the Mountaineers were officially done. It's a shame it had to end that way. But end it did.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jon Scheyer -- 23 points, six assists, two rebounds, two steals. Counting his assists in the equation, Scheyer had a hand in half the team's points. Scheyer is officially past his slump. Just in time for a chance at the national championship. Convenient, right?
PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler share this honor. There's a reason they're called the Big Three. All three of them were big tonight. Try a combined 63 points, 17 assists and 12 3s. That group alone outscored WVU, 63-57.
STAT OF THE GAME: Duke's offensive efficiency remains the story here. Duke scored 1.5 points per possession against West Virginia, a team that had been allowing a mere .88 points per trip this season. The Blue Devils made a ton of shots (52.7 percent from the field; a 64.5 effective field goal percentage), and when they missed, they grabbed offensive rebounds, and made those shots. They scored the first 17 second-chance points of the game. That Duke was able to so thoroughly dominate this West Virginia team is a marvel. Who saw that coming?
COUNTRY ROADS: Bob Huggins is officially a sympathetic figure. I wrote that before the Final Four -- heck, this was happening before the Mountaineers beat Kentucky -- but after tonight's performance, few fans will be able to claim Huggins is merely a sleazeball that doesn't care about his players. He has his faults, sure, and he stands out for being gruff in a profession that rewards gruffness like few others, but the man has love in his heart. That's never been clearer than tonight. Sad that it had to end for Huggins, but he seems to have found a place that appreciates him as much as he appreciates it. Sappy? Sure. True? I think so.