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A Closer Look At How Duke Gutted Louisville In The Second Half

As Duke hits a stretch of greatness late in the second half

Duke v Louisville
 LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - JANUARY 29: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on January 29, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As Jim suggested in his summary the Louisville game can be sort of summarized like this: Duke was good, Duke wasn’t so good, then Duke was good again. Call it the Deadly Third.

A lot of that revolved around Mark Williams. He got in foul trouble early and left and then picked up a third at the beginning of the second half.

Louisville kept pace with Duke, down just 61-60, until Williams asserted himself when Sidney Curry drove on Williams and attempted a dunk which Williams emphatically rejected.

On the following play, Durham native El Ellis challenged Williams and couldn’t convert.

The following sequence saw Ellis find Curry underneath for another dunk attempt, this time denied by Paolo Banchero. Williams got the rebound and eventually AJ Griffin hit a three to bled the lead to five.

Then Williams got the third block of the Deadly Third, one on one against Ellis in the corner, and recovered the ball. Bill Russell would be proud.

After a couple of misfires, Griffin hit another three to stretch the lead to eight.

Noah Locke missed on a drive and Wendell Moore got the board with 4:34 left.

Duke tried the inbounds play they usually run with the injured Trevor Keels, using Griffin instead, but it didn’t work and the Cards got the ball back. Dre Davis, who had been so hot early, missed a corner jumper with 3:53 left.

Williams took that rebound.

Then Banchero got Gabe Wiznitzer alone and abused him for an easy basket, pushing the lead to 10 with 3:28 left.

Ellis settled for a contested shot above the foul line with :10 left on the clock.

Banchero pinched that board and took a shot near the lane over Matt Cross which missed. But Williams pushed past Louisville’s Malik Williams to tip it in, left handed no less, which he could have never done last year.

Davis finally scored again for Louisville with 2:17 left.

What followed wasn’t perfect basketball and will be reviewed, graded and hopefully corrected.

But that 12-2 stretch again showed Duke’s ability to strike quickly, just as it did in the legendary 23 point comeback in 2019.

And it also showed a vastly more mature Williams and a team that could reach down and find a kind of toughness despite not having Keels and Moore not at his best.

In short it was a very hopeful sign.