Duke’s trip to Arkansas didn't turn out the way most of us wanted, with the Razorbacks threatening to blow the Blue Devils out in the second half. But Duke showed a lot of heart down the stretch and maybe learned a few things about themselves too.
For much of the first half, the lead bounced back and forth and neither team could pull ahead by more than two or three points. It didn't help Duke that Kyle Filipowski picked up two early fouls and sat for much of the half.
Despite that, it was like watching two fighters in the early rounds, feeling each other out, punching cautiously.
That ended in the second half when Arkansas started to pull away. The Hogs started to heat up about seven minutes in, going from a 44-43 lead at 13:57 to a 55-45 lead at 11:11. For a while, it seemed like almost everything they put up, no matter how unlikely or ungainly, went in.
And for Duke, layups and other chippies were not going in.
Arkansas was up 75-65 with 1:20 left. And then Duke, after being somewhat sluggish and unassertive for much of the second half, flipped a switch.
Then Kyle Filipowski hit a three to cut the lead to seven. He followed that with a layup and a steal. Jeremy Roach hit a free throw and then Filipowski hit another layup.
Then he hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 78-75 with :18 left.
That was as close as Duke got, but the Devils made the crowd at Bud Walton extremely nervous and Hogs coach Eric Musselman as well.
The pressure was a revelation. Partly it was that Arkansas wasn’t prepared for it - it won’t work against everyone.
But it did work and it was exciting, another wrinkle that this young team can explore.
There were some flaws in this game, obviously. Duke didn’t shoot well, just 35.8 percent, and 27.3 percent from deep. And this is a problem - the Devils were just 21-31 from the line. If a few more had gone in, this game might have ended differently. And as promising as Jared McCain and Caleb Foster are, Duke’s dynamic freshmen combined to shoot 1-12. McCain had another strong rebounding game with 10 boards, but 48 of Duke’s points came from Filipowski (26) and Jeremy Roach (22).
But the end offered a lot of hope. Duke lacked aggression for much of the game and nearly made up for it which would have been the best comeback since the insane turnaround at Louisville in 2019.
Things also might have been different if either Sean Stewart or Christian Reeves had been prepared to step up. Reeves has to get back up speed after his injury. Those guys live on a razors edge of conditioning and he’s probably not there yet.
Stewart is wildly athletic and usually entertaining to watch because even when he gets something wrong, he’s so bouncy that it’s kind of mind-boggling. But his skills don’t match his talent yet.
Partly because neither of those guys could help much, particularly inside defensively, TJ Power got a chance to play extended minutes. He hit two threes and grabbed a rebound, which was more statistically than Stewart and Reeves combined.
We’ve talked before about seeing Stewart’s teammates coaching him during the game or getting frustrated that he didn’t do what he was expected to do.
We don’t have a fraction of the coaching knowledge that Jon Scheyer does. He’s lived in this game for decades and he instinctively understands things that most of us just don’t.
There are things on this team that need to improve. Three point shooting and free throws, for instance, defense in general. But what it could really use is a skilled, 6-9 guy who has freakish athletic talent.
If Stewart could reliably rotate in with Ryan Young - not necessarily at the same time but in a way that would buttress Filipowski inside - Duke would be vastly improved.
Mind you, we’re not blaming this loss on him or anyone individually. It’s a team sport, as Arkansas demonstrated admirably, shooting, passing and defending better than Duke.
If Duke can get consistent help from Stewart and Reeves, this will be a very different team, and consistent play from McCain and Foster would be immensely helpful.
Notes - McCain, Mitchell and Proctor combined to shoot 6-27...TJ Powers is still sometimes a liability on defense but in the last two games he’s made it very clear that he’s a shooter...Roach went down hard in the second half and it looked for a minute like it might be serious...fortunately he came back in the game...Arkansas shot nearly 50 percent from the floor but like Duke was mediocre from the line, hitting 19-30...this team had real problems passing the ball so far this season but against Duke, the Razorback had 17 assists on 26 field goals
- HOGWASH: No. 7 Duke men’s basketball frustrated by hot-shooting Arkansas, drops inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge
- Duke loses to Arkansas in ACC-SEC Challenge. Three takeaways from Blue Devils’ loss
- Arkansas coach Eric Musselman recaps 80-75 upset over No. 7 Duke
- Brazile, Battle and defense lead Arkansas to 80-75 victory over No. 7 Duke
- Arkansas star pulls savage move after win over Duke
- Arkansas beats No. 7 Duke in first game after dropping from polls
- BOX SCORE (PDF)
- POSTGAME NOTES (PDF)
- DUKE QUOTES (PDF)
Player of the Game vs. Arkansas
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