Rodney Hood's free throw with 5.0 seconds to play gave No. 6 Duke a 91-90 win against Vermont Sunday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"This was an unacceptable performance. We were lucky to win," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We played like a team that thought we would just show up and win. That’s how you get beat."
The Catamounts (1-5) scored 50 points in the paint and shot 64.8 percent from the field, eye-popping numbers for a team that came into Sunday's contest averaging just 63 points per game. Consistent defensive breakdowns left Vermont forwards with plenty of room to maneuver down low.
"It’s energy, it’s effort, it’s fight. Guys weren’t talking out there," Blue Devil point guard Quinn Cook said. "The first 30 minutes of the game we were all playing defense by ourselves. You give a great team like that confidence and the basket is like the ocean out there. They hit some tough shots."
For the second straight game, the Blue Devils were unable to put distance between themselves and their opponent in the first half. Led by 12 first-half points from forward Clancy Rugg, the Catamounts shot 66.7 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Point guard Sandro Carissimo was effective despite three first-half fouls, getting into the lane time and again and dishing off to Rugg and others for 26 points in the paint.
Duke (5-1) shot 48.5 percent from the field in the first half, including 8-for-17 from beyond the arc. Andre Dawkins was a first-half spark for the Blue Devils, tallying 13 points that included three different varieties of the 3-point play—a driving layup and the foul, a 3-point shot and three free throws after being fouled on another shot from downtown.
With 15:29 remaining in the second half, freshman Jabari Parker—who led the Blue Devils with a game-high 26 points—stole a pass and went coast-to-coast for a dunk, bringing the Duke lead to 61-49. Krzyzewski accused his team of complacency after the apparent momentum shift.
"Those are the kind of situations when we show our immaturity," Krzyzewski said. "Right after that was our worst. [We felt like,] ‘I got enough. Now we got it, we’re good now.’ No, we’re not good, there are 15 minutes to go in the game and they’re shooting over 60 percent from the floor."The uneasiness would only grow as the second half progressed. A 10-0 Vermont run brought the Catamounts to within two with with 11:10 remaining. Carissimo never let his foot off the gas, continuing to drive the lane. He finished the game with 16 points and nine assists. Hector Harold, a junior forward, poured in 16 of his 24 points off the bench in the second half to keep the Catamount fans loud and involved.
A 3-pointer by Harold with 6:59 gave the Catamounts the lead, 74-73, erasing their 14-point deficit. It was the second time in as many games that the Blue Devils have allowed their opponent to come back after holding a double-digit lead in the first half. Carissimo followed with a jumper the next time down the floor, giving Vermont its largest lead of the night.
With the pressure squarely on Duke, Parker led his team back. The freshman shot 7-for-8 in the second half, many of which came on tip-ins and putbacks on offensive rebounds down the stretch. But he was not satisfied by the overall team effort or his individual performance.
"It’s nothing to be happy about," Parker said. "We can’t just win by one point and be on the verge of losing. We got to do better. We didn’t do a good job today."
The teams traded baskets, and Duke regained a four-point edge following free throws by Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook.
Down 90-86 with under 20 seconds to play, Candon Rusin lifted a 3-pointer that found the bottom of the net. Sulaimon, who had slipped on the play, was underneath Rusin as he landed, and was called for a foul. Rusin made the ensuing free throw to tie the game with 10.4 seconds to go.
On Duke's final possession, Hood took the ball to the basket and was fouled by Rugg. After missing the first attempt, he made the second.
The Blue Devils didn't get many stops in crunch time, but they were able to survive Vermont's last-gasp effort. Carissimo sprinted downcourt and found an open Rusin, but the guard couldn't get a shot off before time expired, extending the Blue Devils' streak to 106 nonconference wins at home.
The Blue Devils now head to New York for the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, and they'll take an important lesson with them.
"Our guys do not understand that what they see on tape is not what they’re going to see that night or that afternoon," Krzyzewski said. [Our opponent is] playing against [my team], they’re playing against [our] history, they’re playing against me. We’ve got a good hand here, and you’ve got to play your hand every day, because the team that plays against you is going to play their hand ultimately."