Despite being down by as many as 12 points in the second half, the No. 14 Blue Devils stormed into the semifinals of the ACC tournament Thursday afternoon at the Barclays Center with an 81-77 victory against No. 10 Louisville. In a back-and-forth affair, Duke capitalized on a late 15-3 run to level the score before pulling away in the last four minutes. The Blue Devils now face No. 6 North Carolina in the teams' third matchup of the season after the Tar Heels easily dispatched Miami 78-53 earlier Thursday.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Protect the paint: The Cardinals dominated down low throughout the entire contest, outscoring the Blue Devils 46-28 in the paint. Twenty-eight of Louisville’s 37 first-half points came around the basket, and it picked up right where it left off to start the second half and open up a lot, but Duke's switch to a zone defense closed up the paint for the Cardinals for the last 13 minutes. Louisville could not make up for the lack of offense elsewhere with its interior scoring limited, shooting a dreadful 4-of-21 from beyond the arc and 15-of-26 from the foul line, two stats which overshadowed Duke’s inability to defend inside.
  • Feed Frank the ball: Despite averaging more than 18 points during the last four games, Frank Jackson was uncharacteristically off, shooting just 2-of-6 from the field. A 64.3 percent three-point shooter during that stretch, the freshman managed just one triple on three attempts. In addition, the Alpine, Utah, native missed four of his seven free throws, performing far worse than his 77.5 percent season average. Jackson’s modest performance did not cost the Blue Devils, though, thanks to the resurgence of junior Grayson Allen.
  • Get back the Grayson of old: Allen poured in 18 points Thursday afternoon, his highest point total since Feb. 9 against North Carolina. Although the junior only managed to go 5-for-12 from the field, two triples and several trips to the foul line bolstered his scoring total. Allen looked healthy and logged 28 minutes, the most he has played since a Feb. 22 contest at Syracuse—a reassuring sign if the Blue Devils hope to make a run in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Three key stats:

  • Louisville shoots 15-for-26 from the foul line: Duke again ran into foul trouble—Jayson Tatum fouled out with less than a minute remaining, and four Blue Devils finished the game with three fouls. The Cardinals, however, were unable to capitalize on numerous trips to the charity stripe, shooting just 57.7 percent from the foul line. Luckily for Duke, Louisville also ran into foul trouble, gifting the Blue Devils 31 free throw attempts. Duke converted 22 of them.
  • Donovan Mitchell finishes with four fouls and eight points on 3-for-14 shooting: Thursday’s contest was arguably Mitchell’s worst performance of the season in a conference game. The first-team All-ACC selection racked up multiple fouls early in the first half and was forced spend more time on the bench than usual. The sophomore also shot just 21.4 percent from the field, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, very uncharacteristic from a 37.1 percent 3-point shooter on the season.
  • Tatum, Kennard, and Allen combine for 67 points: As has been the case for much of the season, Duke's top three scorers dictated and facilitated the Blue Devil offense. Kennard and Allen scored 28 of their 42 combined points in the second-half, helping Duke recover from an early Louisville run that brought the score to 61-49 with 13:07 minutes remaining. Tatum played with remarkable consistency and attacked the rim with poise throughout the afternoon.

Three key plays:

  • 8:29 remaining, second half: Less than five minutes after the Cardinals built a 12-point lead, Kennard grabs a rebound, takes it himself down the court and buries a pull-up triple to tie the game with seldom-used Louisville reserve Jay Henderson giving him far too much space.
  • 6:33 remaining, second half: Kennard does it again. A couple buckets for the Cardinals had given them a four-point advantage, but Harry Giles blocks Deng Adel driving for a layup in the paint, Kennard gets the rebound—one of 10 that got him a double-double—and pulls up for another 3-pointer with Jaylen Johnson too late contesting it.
  • 2:24 remaining, second half: Allen draws the defense in with dribble penetration into the paint and kicks it out to a wide open Jayson Tatum in the corner. Tatum buries the shot right in front of his own bench to give the Blue Devils their biggest lead of the game at five.

And the Duke game ball goes to.... Jayson Tatum

Tatum followed up a strong 20-point performance against Clemson with an even more dominant performance against the Cardinals, shooting 9-for-15 from the floor for 25 points. After going 3-for-23 from beyond the arc in the last four games, the freshman scaled back his long-range attempts in favor of driving aggressively to the basket, which he did routinely with success. Tatum converted one of his two attempts from 3-point range and attempted eight free throws, a testament to his attack mentality at the rim.

And the Louisville game ball goes to… Deng Adel

With Donovan Mitchell shooting poorly and in foul trouble, Adel turned in a 21-point performance, his second highest scoring total of the season. The 6-foot-7 sophomore shot 50 percent from the field and logged 38 minutes of action, the most of any Cardinal in the game.