The Cardinals of Louisville, despite their atrocious record, have seemed to turn a corner in their play on the court and how they’ve been responding to head coach Kenny Payne. Coach Scheyer and Payne probably inherited the toughest situations in college basketball coming into the season. Payne had to replace a plethora of pieces and with NCAA investigations looming the task was made much more difficult. It’s hard to acquire talent in the NCAA’s version of free agency when you aren’t even sure you’ll be able to play in the post season. Payne did what he could and of course the record speaks for itself but this past week the Cardinals nearly beat the best team in the ACC and did beat Clemson. Duke had their work cut out for them.
The Blue Devils fell behind early 18-9 to the fiesty Cardinals as El Ellis, a Durham native, hit on his first three 3-point shots – it looked like the Cardinals had things figured out. The Blue Devils wouldn’t take too long to respond. A 13 to 0 run would put the Devils back up 22-18 a lead that they would extend to 9 points at the half. Mark Mitchell and Dereck Lively led he way for the Blue Devils in the first half with Mitchell being the first Blue Devil to reach double-figures after a three-point play gave the freshman 11 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting. Lively scored 9 of his eventual 10 points in the first half going 3-5 from the field and 3-4 from the line.
The second half saw Duke hit on a quick 7-2 spurt but the Cardinals would eventually battle back and the teams traded buckets for the first few minutes of the second half. Jacob Grandison hit his third three-pointer of the game opening up a 17-point lead for Duke, its largest of the game, 59-42, with 13:41 remaining. Louisville responded by cutting the lead to 10, 61-51, with just under 10 minutes on the clock. Louisville continued to remain within striking distance, but never managed to get the lead into single-digits as Duke closed out the 79-62 victory.
Junior guard Jeremy Roach would lead the Blue Devils in scoring with 14 hitting some clutch baskets in the second half to keep the pressure on Louisville. Roach finished with 6-9 shooting and dished 6 assists to lead Duke. Mark Mitchell and Kyle Filipowski each notched 13 points on 5-8 and 5-7 shooting respectively. Tyrese Proctor and Dereck Lively round out the double-figure scoring for Duke. Proctor hit on 4-8 from beyond the arc and also dished 3 assists. Lively ended 3-5 from the field and 4-6 from the line for his 10 point effort, he also added 2 blocks – tying Ryan Young for most of the night. Jacob Grandison did not score in double figures but went 3-5 from the 3-point line, hitting timely shots when Duke needed to push the lead.
The win maintains Duke’s unbeaten record at home and moves them to 14-0, 20-8 overall and 11-6 in the conference. The win also secures the Blue Devils a bye in the ACC Tournament and leaves a double bye still in play.
- The Blue Devils won the areas that I thought were the most important those being turnovers which Duke netted their best outing in that regard this season with only 6 – the other was offensive rebounding. As a whole Duke outrebounded the Cardinals 33-28. Not an overwhelming number but Duke’s 13 offensive rebounds netted them 16 points.
- The Blue Devils were also 9-22 from 3 for 40.9 %.
- Fatigue may have been a factor but the Blue Devils did not shoot great from the free throw line, going 12-18 for 66.7%.
- Duke gave up way too many open 3’s, allowing the Cardinals to shoot 44.2 %
DUKE HEAD COACH JON SCHEYER
“I thought it was a big time win for our team. We’ve been in this situation two other times where we play Saturday-Monday, so to come out here and to get the win was really important. Louisville has been playing their best basketball, especially as of late. Just happy to get it done. I do want to say it’s an honor to have C.B. Claiborne here. He came to our shootaround today. Just really special to have him back, and just what he’s done for every single person here at Duke – Duke Athletic Department, Duke Basketball. Incredibly grateful for him being here and honoring him. I thought it was one of Dariq [Whitehead’s] best games actually. I know he didn’t shoot the way he has been, but he didn’t let it impact his game. He made some really nice passes; I thought his defense was really good. Our bench, Jacob Grandison came in and hit three big threes. Ryan Young – [we were plus-24] when he was in the game, I guess that’s on me. Him and Dereck [Lively] have a great one-two punch. We have two great guys there. Then Jeremy [Roach], to close, I thought he was really good. I could go on and on about each of our guys, they all stepped up. Why don’t you ask me questions and I can answer them for you.”
On having 19 assists today and the recently improved ball movement:
“I would say it’s two things. One, we’re getting a feel for each other. Early in the year, we’ve had to do a lot of different things when you talk about the roles that guys are playing, and the continuity; so just the experience of playing with each other, understanding who’s going to be where, and then just understanding the value of every play. Plays that you make in high school, where you drive the ball, defenses are going to collapse and you have to make the right kick and make the right read. I just think the experience of being in those spots really helped. And understanding it’s the difference between winning and losing. When you turn the ball over, it’s a huge difference. Really proud of the last three halves. We had two turnovers in the second half of the Syracuse game until the final minute. Tonight having six, that’s a trend I hope we can continue to see.”
On the success in the quick turnaround from Saturday to Monday:
“To me, it just speaks to our growth. That’s what we’ve harped on to our guys all year round. Let’s continue to grow, let’s continue to be at our best when our best is required and when our best is needed down the stretch. You know when they start saying it to each other the message is getting through. They’re taking great ownership because they really want to get this one tonight, just to keep this thing going. We’ve had a good stretch this last couple of weeks – not to say we haven’t had a game where we haven’t played as well. But we’re trending in the right direction and we’ll continue to learn and grow.”
On Tyrese Proctor’s recent defensive improvement:
“I’ll have to ask our guys for the numbers after this game, but Tyrese – coming in, the last couple of weeks – he’s been, percentage wise, in the 90th percentile in the country when he’s guarding the ball. He does a great job. Anybody gets scored on, but he makes life really difficult. He’s incredibly disciplined, he has great balance, really good attention. He did a great job tonight. [El] Ellis is going to score, and all that, but we have a lot of confidence in him. We feel like our starting perimeter, and we come in the same way off the bench, but Jeremy, Tyrese, and Mark [Mitchell] – that’s a big-time defensive group. That’s why our numbers have been really good on that end.”
JUNIOR GUARD JEREMY ROACH
“Louisville’s a tough team. Obviously, they’re playing their best basketball right now. They had a close one with UVa, obviously beat Clemson, so we knew what we were in for. We knew they were playing with house money and they were going to be confident, especially with [Louisville assistant coach, Nolan Smith] coming back. It’s a great team win and I’m happy.”
“You always have to protect home court. You don’t want anybody to come in here and take one. Always gotta protect home court. We’re home the next two out of three games, so we’ve got to keep it going.”
On how nice it is to have multiple options on offense:
“It’s great just to have all five guys be a threat, especially for our team. We’re so versatile, too. When stuff’s not going my way, I know I’ve got Tyrese [Proctor], I’ve got Mark [Mitchell], I’ve got Flip [Kyle Filipowski], D-Live [Dereck Lively II], and they can step up and hit some big-time shots, too.”
On the outlook for the remainder of the season and if he feels like this team is coming together collectively:
“Really, it’s just a sense of urgency right now. It’s the end of the season and we’ve got to get these wins. I think that’s what they’re finally starting to realize – it’s time to go. We’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve had our losses, and we’ve had our learning experiences or whatever. It’s the end of the season and it’s time to go. It’s a sense of urgency. They’re feeling it now, and I think we’re going to keep it going..”
FRESHMAN FORWARD KYLE FILIPOWSKI
“Probably the biggest thing we were focusing on was El Ellis and making sure he didn’t get off to a hot start., but congrats to him – he’s a great player and he did just that. We stayed poised. We’ve been in situations where we’ve gone down double digits early in the game and haven’t responded so well, but I think we did a better job of that tonight. We fixed some of the mistakes we were making at the beginning of the game with Ellis and just getting the rebounds. Obviously, that just transitioned to having us have the momentum and making the right reads, the right plays, and that led to us getting the win.”
On the recent improvement of this Duke team:
“It’s definitely reached another level. I don’t think we’re at our fullest potential yet. Obviously, the sky’s the limit for us, but we’re definitely making great strides, and we can be a really dangerous team. We are a dangerous team now, but we can be an even more dangerous team come the [ACC] Tournament. We’re definitely starting to reach another level of once we get a lead, [we] expand that lead and don’t give it back up. Obviously, the other team will make some runs back, but it’s definitely how we respond in return to that. We’ve done a really good job of that the last two games, and we’ve just got to keep that moving forward.”
“Just having faith in each other – faith that we’ll make the extra pass, make the right play – that all starts in practice and everyone’s doing a great job. The coaches as well, just staying on the same page, just making sure everyone’s on the same page, that transitions to the game and it’s just great for us, so we’re going to keep doing what works best.”
FRESHMAN GUARD TYRESE PROCTOR
On Louisville’s mindset entering the game:
“[Louisville] came in with free money and they had nothing to lose, and they’ve been playing their best basketball this month and we knew that coming into the game. Obviously, not winning a Saturday-Monday [quick turnaround games] yet, we knew it was a huge game for us. Just locking in on [El] Ellis and not letting him get in a rhythm, which he did early and then I think we responded and did a really good job.”
On him and Jeremy Roach becoming more and more comfortable being on the court together and feeding off each other:
“I think we’ve been clicking a lot this year, and it’s starting to show more. A big thing is just us limiting our turnovers. It just gives us more possessions. Jeremy and I love playing with each other and it’s been fun.”
LOUISVILLE HEAD COACH KENNY PAYNE
“I thought we played one of the most talented teams in this conference. Even though they’re young, they’re really talented. They have great length. It bothered us. They shot the ball well. They got the ball in the paint. The one thing they did: they dominated us on the boards. I don’t know how many points they had off offensive rebounds, but they dominated us. 16 points. Disappointed in the way we came out and played. Thought we started out pretty good and then we put them on their heels and then when they hit us back, we wilted. We wilted and never got it back. Give them credit. Good team. NCAA Tournament team. They got good players all around the court, one through five, they’re tough to guard and when they do miss shots, they go to the boards.”
On what Duke did defensively to make it difficult for them:
“I thought they denied us all over the court. I thought we refused to get in the bodies and man up and fight to get open. We work on it every day. I just thought that they put us on our heels. At times it looked like the environment intimidated us. Not acceptable. We tried to explain to them what kind of environment this is. We have a coach on the staff who played here, coached here. Went through everything that this program is and what it means to be here and how they were going to come out and play against us. Something didn’t click. We, as coaches, me personally, I take the blame for that. Couldn’t get them to play the way they needed to play with the fight that we needed to get a win.”
On performance of El Ellis and what he’s meant to the team this season:
“I’ll just speak on this. He came out and pulled us and willed us to the lead in the beginning of this game. His impact on this team is immense. We go with him and that’s in everything we do. That’s in walkthroughs. That’s in practice. That’s in games. His spirit, it’s a tough thing to be a young man and be a spirit child because that’s a dangerous position to be in. You decide to take a play or a week or a day or something off, it affects a whole lot of other people. He’s trying. He’s getting better every day. I’m proud of him. He’s gotten better. He works hard. He wants to win. He plays to win. He’s doing what I’m asking him to do. I just need some other guys to step up with him and fight with him.”
On JJ Traynor and his fight tonight despite injury:
“I like the way JJ played offensively. He finished the game with three rebounds. Points are not it for me. I need guys that’s going to get rebounds; that’s going to get assists; that’s going to play with energy; that’s going to fight. The fact that he shot the ball well and he scored well, I expect that. I also expect him to finish that off with getting me rebounds and fighting on defense. So, he had a good game. He had a pretty good game. I need a winning game.”