``It's great to be at the level Duke has been and we're back there again,'' sophomore center Elton Brand said Sunday after the 85-64 victory over sixth-seeded Temple in the East Regional final.
The nation's top-ranked team is closing the decade where it was almost every year at the start of the 90s.
The Blue Devils (36-1) extended their school-record winning streak to 31 games and will be making their 12th Final Four appearance - the eighth under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
On Saturday, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Duke plays Michigan State, which beat Kentucky 73-66 to win the Midwest Regional. The Blue Devils beat the Spartans 73-67 in December in the Great Eight.
Duke was in the Final Four from 1990-92 and again in 1994, winning the national championship in 1991 and 1992.
``It's been a long time coming and it's something I haven't experienced,'' fifth-year senior Trajan Langdon said. ``Coming into this game I knew it was my last chance to go to the Final Four.''
Langdon, a second-team All-America, did something about it with an impressive shooting display against Temple's famed matchup zone defense, going 5-for-6 from 3-point range and finishing with 23 points.
``He is as pure a shooter as I've seen in college basketball,'' Temple coach John Chaney said.
The loss deprived Chaney of his first trip to the Final Four. It was the fourth time he had a team in the regional final and it was third time he lost that game in Continental Airlines Arena.
The first of those was to Duke in 1988, and Temple, which has been to two Final Fours, the last in 1958, lost to North Carolina there in 1991.
This tournament run was the least likely for Chaney.
``Just being here a fourth time is a tremendous honor as far as I'm concerned,'' Chaney said. ``This ranks up there as one of the best and these kids are going to win and win and win.''
The matchup zone employed by the 67-year-old coach kept the game close for a while. But Duke, the heaviest tournament favorite since UNLV in 1991, had too many answers.
There was the outside shooting of Langdon, the inside power of Elton Brand and the athleticism of one of the nation's deepest teams.
It was all too much for Temple (24-11).
``Our teams are similar but his has better athletes,'' Chaney said, referring to Krzyzewski. ``I just hope whoever plans to beat them believes in the Lord.''
The Owls were hit with their worst loss of the season, allowed more than 55 points for the first time in this tournament and gave up the most points by a Chaney-coached team in 15 NCAA tournament appearances.
Brand, the only unanimous first-team All-America, had 21 points and eight rebounds. The Blue Devils, second in the nation in field goal percentage at 51.6, shot 60 percent (27-for-45).
Mark Karcher and Lamont Barnes each had 19 points for Temple, which shot 38 percent (25-for-65).
Temple got within 64-54 with 10:26 to play on a 3-pointer by Karcher. That may not seem close, but the Blue Devils had won their tournament games by an average of 33 points and their 26.1 average margin of victory is tops in the country.
Duke, which leads the nation averaging 93.2 points per game, came right back with an 11-2 run, the last four points coming on a power dunk and nice low post move by Brand and the lead was 75-56 with 5:51 to play.
``I thought we were playing to keep a margin,'' Krzyzewski said. ``We held them a couple of times and I felt coming in that how we defended them would be the most important aspect of the game. If we play well on the defensive end it helps us offensively.''
Temple's last lead was 11-10 with 13-1/2 minutes left in the half. Langdon then hit the second and third of his three straight 3s to start a 12-0 run and suddenly the zone had to extend.
The Owls did get within 30-25 with 3-1/2 minutes left on a 3-pointer by Mark Karcher, but a 6-0 run over the next minute had the lead back to 11.
The Blue Devils put the exclamation point on the first half when freshman Corey Maggette flew into sight and dunked the rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Avery to make it 43-31.
``You don't get a chance to play for the national championship until you get to the Final Four,'' Krzyzewski said. ``Now we can talk about winning the national championship.''
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