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Duke Falls To Louisville At Home

A valiant second half comeback was marred by some poor choices and errors

Louisville v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 18: Cassius Stanley #2 of the Duke Blue Devils goes after a loose ball over Darius Perry #2 of the Louisville Cardinals during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 18, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So, I went to a UFC fight tonight and a basketball game broke out.

If you don’t have a rooting interest and you like physicality you probably loved Louisville’s 79-73 win over Duke Saturday night.

But it you don’t have a rooting interest, then you probably aren’t reading this.

And about that physicality. Mike Krzyzewski compared the game to the early ‘90s Bulls and Pistons and not in a good way

“We were the prelim to the fight tonight. That was a brutal game. The most physical game we’ve been involved in... in years. They’re good. They’re really good. . . . With the depth that they have and the experience –they outplayed us, especially in those first 10 minutes. Our kids fought like crazy and put us in a position to win. The term ‘freedom of movement’ was not alive and well tonight. I hope we don’t have the rest of the conference like that. That’s not good basketball. They played great – I don’t want to take away from them. For both of us, you can’t have that.”

Louisville is a deep, athletic, veteran team and they bludgeoned Duke early on, taking a 25-10 lead, turning live-ball turnovers into transition baskets.

“We have to find a way to come out and talk and execute our game plan,” Jack White conceded. “I thought we outfought them for the last 30 minutes of the game. We just weren’t strong with the ball at the start. That just goes along with how we start the game. We’ve got to understand that’s how teams are going to play us because teams are going to pretty much try to punk us in the hopes that we are going to be soft with the ball. At the end of the day we need to take it to them and protect our home court and take the ball to them . . . and be the ones who are putting them on their back foot.”

Duke took its only leads early, a Matthew Hurt bomb for 3-0, a Jordan Goldwire jumper for 5-2.

It all began to fall apart soon after. Duke turned it over seven times in a span of six minutes and found itself in a double-digit hole.

It was 25-10 at the midpoint of the first half before Duke got its bearings and started counter-punching.

“We were knocked back,” Krzyzewski said. “The physicality of the game was amazing. We could’ve been blown out by 30 or 40 points. Our kids came back and put us in a position to win. I’m proud of my guys. We learned a lot tonight. It’s a process. It’s a journey.”

Louisville kept doing things one would not expect them to do. Freshman David Johnson came in to the game averaging 3.7 points per game; in fairness he’s been injured.

Louisville brought the 6-5, 210 pounder into the game, put him at point guard and he spent much of the first half pummeling Tre Jones into a standing-eight count. Johnson outscored Jones 17-0 in the first half.

Post players Steven Enoch and Malik Williams came into the game collectively shooting 8-for-37 on 3s. So, of course they each went 1-for-1 in the first half, Williams at the buzzer to make the halftime score 42-32 after Duke had cut the lead to five at 28-23.

Duke got nothing from Jones in the first half and five points from Vernon Carey. But freshmen Cassius Stanley (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Hurt (11 points) kept Duke in the game, while Jack White came off the bench to give Duke a much-needed boost of toughness.

We all know what happened the last time these two teams met and Duke certainly gave Louisville a chance to choke in the second half.

They declined the invitation.

The Blue Devils tied the game twice in the second half and cut the deficit to one on two other occasions. But they couldn’t get stops after any of those scores and never had the ball and a chance to take the lead.

Stanley was awesome at times. Krzyzewski said he “carried the team on his back.” Jones rebounded with 12 second-half points, while Hurt and Carey had their moments.

But Louisville had an answer for every Duke question. Hurt drew a foul on a 3-pointer and made all three foul shots to tie the game at 58-58 with 8:51 left.

But grad-student transfer Lamarr Kimble pushed the ball up court, scored, drew the foul and knocked down the freebie.

Jones tied it again, 63-63 on a 3-pointer, with 6:29 left.

Kimble answered with a 3 of his own.

Kimble only scored eight points but he sure picked his spots.

A Carey stick-back made it 66-65. But Duke followed with perhaps the biggest defensive breakdown of the game. After a non-shooting foul, Louisville inserted Ryan McMahon into the lineup. Coming into the game McMahon had attempted 116 field goals, 90 from beyond the arc.

So, naturally Duke left him alone and he buried the 3.

Jordan Goldwire scored off a steal to make it 71-70, with 3:27 left.

Duke kept pushing the boulder up the hill, kept digging out of the hole, kept hammering that rock.

Surely, someone would step up and make the winning play.

But it takes a lot of energy, physical and mental to fight from behind for 35 minutes.

Jones said Duke wasn’t tired at the end.

“I think we would fight back into the game and I don’t know if we fell asleep on defense or let up on our talk for one or two possessions. We gave up a 3 on an in-bounds play. We would fight back and be right there and be an inch away from a block or a steal. . . . I think we were all mentally sharp at the end of the game and ready to make the right play. We were fighting like crazy but the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”

Of course, falling asleep on defense or losing a shooter on an in-bounds is what happens when fatigue sets in.

“I thought we were really tired and their maturity and depth got us at the end “Krzyzewski said

I’ll take his word for it.

Louisville put together an 8-0 run before a Baker 3 at the buzzer.

Not falling behind early is a good way to not have to come from behind.

“If we didn’t know then, we know now that every ACC team is big and physical and we have to be ready for that,” Jones summed up.

“We just have to get older,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m really up on my team. It’s a long journey. I’ve never told you that we’re great. It’s a process for us, playing these two teams. Getting beat, we have to learn from it and move on. It’s a long journey.”


Duke held Jordan Nwora to 6 points, on 3 dunks. But Louisville coach Chris Mack suggested that Duke’s attention to Nwora opened up lanes for his teammates. Mike Krzyzewski did not dispute the assertion.

Johnson only scored 2 points in the second half, ending with 19. He had 7 assists but 5 turnovers. Post players Enoch and Williams combined for 22 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Duke had four players in double figures. Stanley had career highs in points (24), rebounds (11) and foul shooting (9-10). Hurt added 16 points but only 2 rebounds. Jones had 12 points, 7 assists, 3 steals but 4 turnovers. Carey had 12 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes but set out the final few minutes.

Jack White had 7 rebounds and 5 steals.

Louisville out-shot Duke across the board, as the Blue Devils went 6-for-25 on 3s, 37 percent overall. Duke’s 72 percent from the line was undermined by some big misses down the stretch,a miss on the first end of the one-and-one by Goldwire with Duke down 58-51 and 2 by Carey with Duke down 71-65.

Still, a long season and still a young team, with room to grow. Duke and Louisville are both 15-3 but Louisville has one conference loss, Duke two. And Duke and Louisville don’t meet again in the regular season. So advantage Cardinals.

I’ll quote a portion of Krzyzewski’s post-game comments without further comment.

“I’m not a sour grapes guy. I’m a stand-up guy... give them credit. The game shouldn’t be played that way. We should have freedom of movement. They did their stuff better than we did and they deserved to win. We lost and whenever I’m here and we lose, I always credit the opponent. I don’t throw my own team under the bus ever... ever. I’m not going to make excuses. They could’ve beaten us another way too. God bless them.”


Player Of The Game vs. Louisville

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Matthew Hurt
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Vernon Carey
    (2 votes)
  • 88%
    Cassius Stanley
    (474 votes)
  • 0%
    Jordan Goldwire
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Tre Jones
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Javin DeLaurier
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Jack White
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    Alex O’ Connell
    (20 votes)
536 votes total Vote Now