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Duke men's lacrosse uses second-half spurt to roll past Utah at home

<p>Joe Robertson scored the game winner to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four, finally knocking off a Notre Dame squad that has caused them headaches throughout the season.</p>

Joe Robertson scored the game winner to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four, finally knocking off a Notre Dame squad that has caused them headaches throughout the season.

After scoring his fourth goal of the night and second in a row, Utah attackman Jimmy Perkins wheeled away toward the Utes' bench in celebration. The visitors, playing just their seventh game in program history, were having a ball in Durham midway through the second quarter.

On the other side of midfield, there was a far different mood. Blue Devil head coach John Danowski paced up and down the sideline. His son, assistant coach Matt Danowski, screamed at his attack unit, which had gone silent.

Utah had the lead for the first time all night, and the Utes held it for more than six minutes. 

Then, the most improbable of scores turned the game on its head.

A pass from Joe Robertson just inside the midfield line in the final seconds of the opening half somehow found its way into the back of the net, sparking an 8-0 run as No. 2 Duke pulled away from Utah for a 17-11 win Tuesday night at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils, now winners of six in a row, scored 11 goals in a nearly 25-minute span while limiting the Utes to just one score after trailing in the opening half-hour.

"I walked away at halftime thinking this is an even game, and not that we weren't ready," Danowski said. "There were no excuses for us at all. We're happy with the third quarter and how we came out after halftime, but at the end of the day, it's a good win against a good  team that's won three games in a row."

It was a near carbon copy of last week's game against Loyola in the first few minutes. Sophomore Nakeie Montgomery needed just 62 seconds to get the initial goal and Duke (7-1) was up 3-0 before five minutes had elapsed.

And though Utah (4-4) was able to get a pair on the board by the end of the first quarter, the Blue Devils dominated—the hosts outshot their guests 17-8, won nine of the 10 faceoffs and capitalized on their lone man-up opportunity en route to a 6-2 lead.

Then, the Utes turned it on. Perkins and sophomore Josh Stout logged six of Utah's first seven goals as Duke continued to turn the ball over. The Blue Devils gave it away four times in the opening quarter and five more in the second.

"I was very impressed," Danowski said of the visitors. "They had a plan. They play a certain way. They want to run, they want to get out from the defensive end when they can, and they did a nice job early."

But with the momentum of the long-range score just before halftime, Duke came out of the break firing on all cylinders. Freshman Garrett Leadmon finished off his hat trick 51 seconds into the third quarter and the Blue Devils scored the next six goals, turning a 7-7 deadlock into a comfortable 14-7 advantage by the end of the stanza.

Even after Duke pulled ahead by nine, Utah wouldn't just lay down. The Utes scored the final three tallies on the night, making the final margin just six—an improvement after by nine at No. 11 Denver last month.

"[Utah] shot the ball well," Danowski said. "Those kids put the ball right on everybody's sticks and again, for a first-year program, terrific coaching—they knew what they wanted to accomplish and they were good at it."

The Blue Devils will get a big-time nonconference test Saturday afternoon when No. 5 Towson comes to town. The Tigers ripped off five wins to start the season before dropping their first game to No. 3 Cornell over the weekend in Charlotte.