Duke outlasted a tough Louisville team to advance to face UNC in the seasonal rubber match in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Duke, on the strength of strong offensive performances by Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum, stunned the Cardinals 81-77. Defensively Duke’s man-to-man defense was porous and the Cardinals took advantage of Duke’s deficiencies building a 12 point lead in the second half until Coach K made a change. Duke employed a 2-3 zone that seemed to stem the rhythm of the Cardinals who went cold from the field. Duke was able to chip away at the lead methodically with the masterful offensive performance by freshman Jayson Tatum who scored 25 on 9 of 15 shooting. Luke Kennard was not hot but came alive in the second half scoring 24 and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Frank Jackson had been the story for the Devils of late. The freshman guard had come into his own scoring and giving Duke another dimension offensively but against Louisville early foul trouble hampered Jackson’s ability to stay on the floor and the Utah native could only muster 8 points on 2 of 6 shooting. Enter Grayson Allen. The much maligned junior guard came in to spell Jackson and seemed to get his groove back. When Rick Pitino inserted David Levitch into the game for no other reason than to try to goad Allen into losing his cool – it was on. Allen responded with 3 free throws and sparked the team into a run. Allen scored 18 off the bench and added 4 rebounds but seeing Allen get off the schneid seemed to give life to tired Duke legs.
Some good things for Duke aside from Grayson Allen seeing the ball go into the hoop was big minutes from freshman Harry Giles. Giles scored 4 points, had 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 15 good minutes for Duke. Marques Bolden also added 4 minutes from the bench. Also a positive, well pseudo-positive, Duke is finding ways to score the basketball when the 3 point shot isn’t falling. Duke was better today at 7-18 (38.9%) but in two games Duke has had to manufacture points off of drives to the basket, isolation and getting to the line.