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Duke's Big Three pay big dividends

Forward Kyle Singler scored 21 points to help lead Duke to the title game. Bob Donnan/US Presswire

INDIANAPOLIS -- West Virginia played 13 guys in its Final Four game against Duke.

Three guys beat the Mountaineers.

The real final score: Duke 78, West Virginia 57.

The other final score: Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler 63, West Virginia 57.

The Big Three, as they’re called, finally lived up to their moniker in a game when Duke needed them most.

The trio provided 63 of the Blue Devils’ 78 points, 17 of their 20 assists, 12 of their 13 3-pointers and 12 of their 29 rebounds to put the Blue Devils back in the national title game.

“It’s a lot of fun when we get it going like that, a lot,’’ Singler said. “It’s like we all feed off one another. When we shoot like that, with our defense and our rebounding, we’re tough to beat.’’

The triumvirate ranks as the highest-scoring trio in NCAA basketball this season, but it’s been a long time since all three were firing on all cylinders.

In this NCAA tournament, the three have more often taken turns dominating a game than combining to dispatch an opponent together.

Smith had the hot hand against Baylor, Singler against Purdue. It was Smith’s turn against California and back to Singler in the opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Saturday's game was only the third time all season all three had at least 19. In fact, this was the first Final Four game in nine years in which three teammates scored 19-plus. The last team to do? Duke's title team of 2001 (with Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer and Jay Williams pulling it off).

“We definitely feel a responsibility to score the ball,’’ Smith said. “We know when all three of us have a good game, how tough this team is to beat.’’

Against WVU, the trio shredded West Virginia’s 1-3-1 zone. They teed it up for 12-of-23 shooting from 3-point range, putting the Mountaineers on their heels with seven treys by the halftime break.

“Those threes are just daggers,’’ Brian Zoubek said. “I think when they miss, we get the rebound, kick it out and then they hit it, that just really takes a lot out of a team.’’