Setting the scene. Louisville, Kentucky – the number 2 team in the nation for 30 minutes played like they didn’t belong on the same court as the home team Cardinals. For 30 minutes Coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t recognize his team. The Blue Devils were completely outplayed, out-hustled and out-done by the Cardinals of Louisville for 30 whole minutes. During those 30 minutes it was evident that Duke’s uniforms showed up but the team that normally occupied them were still in Charlottesville, VA. At around the 9 minute mark of the second half – they arrived…fashionably late.
The listless and languid team that was dominated by the Cardinals was no more. Coach K, sensing an opportunity or a bit of desperation – changed up his defensive strategy and switched to a very extended 2-3 zone coupled with a 2-2-1 press. The zone seemed to rattle the Cardinals. Duke’s length and the situational pressure were too much for Louisville down the stretch and Duke was able to quickly claw their way back into the game. Duke, down 23 with 9:13 left in the game went on a run. They were able to score 35 points in the last 9 minutes and only allow 10 from Louisville. The zone’s activity forced the Cardinals into 9 turnovers down the stretch and Duke heated up from beyond the arc – going 4-9 from 3 to end the game.
The Blue Devils shot awfully from 3 point range overall (25%) and from the field in general (36.5%) but were able to capitalize from the free throw line at 75% – 8 percentage points higher than their average. Zion Williamson lead the Blue Devils in scoring with 27 points on 9-15 shooting. The freshman forward also grabbed 12 rebounds and had 3 steals. Williamson recorded his 10th double-double this season. Cam Reddish didn’t shoot particularly well from beyond the arc but did score 22 points on 7-19 shooting – his 6th 20 point game of the season. Reddish made the tying 3-pointer with 1:28 left and the go-ahead free throws with 14 seconds on the clock. The freshman forward is averaging 18.4 points over his last 5 games.
The unsung hero for this game for Duke is sophomore point guard Jordan Goldwire. Even though the seldom used reserve guard didn’t score a point, he did contribute 2 assists, 2 steals – his greater value, playing alongside guard Tre Jones, was putting pressure on the Louisville ball handlers. The Cardinals, who had been averaging 17.3 turnovers in their last 3 losses ended the game with 17 against the Blue Devils.