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Duke Takes Texas In OT 85-78

Call it the Great Escape.

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Duke University v University of Texas
 PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 24: Dylan Osetkowski #21 of the Texas Longhorns defends on Trevon Duval #1 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of the game during the PK80-Phil Knight Invitational presented by State Farm at the Moda Center on November 24, 2017 in Portland, Oregon.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

For most of the game Texas took it to Duke like Frazier took it to Ali, hitting the Blue Devils with body shot after body shot. Somehow, despite finishing without Grayson Allen who fouled out and finishing with five freshmen, Duke caught up and passed Texas in overtime.

To call that a turnaround is to understate turnaround. Texas had this game and they knew it. The Longhorns were up 60-46 with 11:46 to go and Duke...well, Duke wasn't looking good.

For most of the game, Texas was really in the saddle and early foul trouble by Grayson Allen didn’t help.

Duke’s defense was porous and Texas took repeated advantage. And for all the hype about Mohamed Bamba and to a lesser extent Matt Coleman, for our money, the star was Dylan Osetkowski. For most of the game, the 6-9 forward played like the best guy out of San Diego since Bill Walton. He was just brilliant.

Up until fairly late in the second half, we were sure that Texas had Duke’s number. The poor defense, the penetration, and Osetkowski’s remarkable control of the offense made it hard to see how Duke could come back.

With 7:43 left, Texas was still up 10, 66-56. With 4:58 left, Duke still trailed by seven. But the mood of the game had changed.

So aggressive, so assertive earlier, the Longhorns were no longer as certain and Duke’s defense, although still problematic, tightened up. Texas still got some easy shots but more and more, the shots weren’t falling and Duke was picking up the rebounds.

Wendell Carter cut the lead to six with 4:18 left and then to two with 3:27 to go. Then Marvin Bagley tied the game 70-70 with 2:41 to go.

For some (freshman) reason, Bamba decided to launch a three pointer.

Allen fouled out :19 seconds later. Kerwin Roach got loose for a dunk after that and Texas had the lead until Gary Trent had a layup - and was fouled by Bamba, who left the game with his fifth.

The game was tied with :05 left when Bagley repeated Bamba’s mistake and took a three with the game on the line. Duke had two follow-ups miss and the game went to overtime.

In overtime, Texas lost 6-9 Jericho Sims to fouls and had no way to contain Duke inside and in overtime, 10 of Duke’s 12 points were scored by Carter and Bagley (the last two free throws were by Gary Trent).

The game was billed as a matchup between Bamba and Bagley and while that was always a dumb way to look at it, Bagley certainly outplayed his rival: he finished with 34 points and 15 rebounds to Bamba’s nine points, 10 boards and two (very impressive) blocks.

Carter had 14 points and 11 boards so between them Duke’s young big men racked up 48 of Duke’s 85 points and 26 of Duke’s 50 rebounds.

And yet this was a game Duke could easily have lost, even in overtime. Texas shot just 4-23 from three point range. And though Duke again shot poorly from the line (61.1%), Texas was nearly as bad (66.7%).

It’s a potentially serious flaw and the Blue Devils needs to address it. In one positive note, Bagley has usually pulled the percentage down. Not this time: he hit 9-13, a major improvement.

Look, this was a great comeback and Duke deserved to win. But it wouldn’t have taken much for Texas to pull off the upset. Just a few free throws, or perhaps one less foul on Bamba and Sims.

We were prepared to look at this game as a learning opportunity, figuring that a loss would be a good learning opportunity for this young team.

There’s still a lot to learn. Duke’s defense was abysmal for a lot of this game and Texas was more aggressive for the majority of the game as well.

We’ve seen the Blue Devils start slowly for several games now and perhaps this game will be the point where the younger players learn that you have to play hard all the time. We’ll get a better idea Sunday when Duke plays the winner of Florida-Gonzaga. It’s going to take a championship effort to beat either team.

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