MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Duke's strategy for handling Iowa's pressure defense was simple -- let 6-foot-11 Christian Laettner throw the ball over the top and attack.
The Blue Devils made it work, closing the first half with a 13-1 surge and beating the Hawkeyes, 85-70, yesterday in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament to earn its sixth straight trip to a regional semifinal.
"Our goal was to break the press. Most teams see [Iowa center] Acie Earl back there and they don't want to attack because he's such a great shot blocker," said Duke's Thomas Hill, who sparked the decisive run with a dunk and three-point play.
"Our plan was to attack him. A lot of times we had three-on-ones and two-on-ones. We played good defense in that run, were able to get ball up court and get a few easy baskets. That was good for us going into the locker room."
The spurt opened up a 44-29 halftime lead and Iowa (21-11) got no closer than 12 points thereafter. Duke (28-7) will play Connecticut, 66-50 winner over Xavier yesterday, Friday in the Midwest Regional semifinals at Pontiac, Mich.
"We attacked the basket really hard when we broke pressure and that's why we had a 15-point lead," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, trying to take the Blue Devils to a fourth straight Final Four.
Iowa coach Tom Davis said it wasn't so much Duke's ability to break his team's press as it was the Blue Devils' own defense that caused 16 first-half turnovers.
"That was the story of us getting so far behind," Davis said. "We turned it over so frequently we couldn't get our offense going. They did a lot of things to disrupt us."
Laettner led the Blue Devils with 19 points. The second-seeded Blue Devils also got 17 points from Thomas Hill and 14 points and six steals from Grant Hill, the son of former National Football League star Calvin Hill.