Duke 67, VCU 58 (final): The Blue Devils simply could not convert anything from the field down the stretch, but they took advantage of strong free-throw shooting and a horrific late-game VCU performance from the floor to hold their lead and bring home a hard-fought win to advance to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Duke drained 11-of-12 free throws after a Quinn Cook layup at the 8:18 mark, with the only field goal after that coming on a Mason Plumlee dunk with 12 seconds on the clock.
Duke 60, VCU 54 (2:23, second half): Duke hasn't made a field goal since the 8:18 mark, and VCU went from 9:21 to 4:04 without scoring at all. Both teams just running on adrenaline and fumes right now down the stretch.
Duke 58, VCU 52 (3:34, second half): Fatigue finally began to set in and the fouls to pile up for the Blue Devils, who struggled to penetrate against the Ram defense in the halfcourt even though VCU backed off some of its full-court pressure. Playing just six players against a ten-man VCU rotation, Duke began to foul more frequently on defense but the Rams could not take advantage from the charity stripe, missing the front end of two different one-and-one opportunities as part of a streak of six consecutive missed free throws. Both teams have really begun to struggle with shooting from everywhere on the floor, and it begins to look as though free-throw shooting is going to be a strong late factor here in a fast-paced defensive game.
Duke 56, VCU 50 (7:55, second half): The Blue Devils finally began to draw fouls in transition against the Ram full-court press, and earned free throws for their efforts due to the bonus situation. Duke made four straight free throws, but gained no ground as VCU forward Juvonte Reddic made his presence known on the other end with a jumper and a transition dunk that sent the small but vocal VCU crowd into a frenzy. After a Krzyzewski timeout, the Rams showed off their stellar half-court defense, stopping drive after drive from Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon and eventually forcing a turnover.
Duke 50, VCU 44 (10:53, second half): A significant scoreboard malfunction gave both teams nearly four minutes of rest as the officials worked to remedy the problem. Duke came out of the break looking a bit sluggish, though, fouling the Rams on three straight possessions. Continued good shooting from Kelly and passing from Quinn Cook kept the Blue Devils ahead by double digits, until the Rams bookended a Sulaimon missed lay-up with a pair of long jumpers, including a 3-pointer from Treveon Graham. Ram guard Rob Brandenburg then added on with a 3-point play after a turnover at midcourt, cutting the Duke lead to six. On the ensuing possession, VCU put together an outstanding defensive effort, forcing a Rasheed Sulaimon heave with two seconds on the shot clock and both teams got out of their shooting rhythms as the pace picked up, trading missed 3-pointers on both ends.
Duke 43, VCU 32 (15:45, second half): Mason Plumlee set a tone for the second-half with a pair of buckets right away, including a post lay-in and an authoritative dunk in transition. The Blue Devils clearly came out seeking to establish their big man early and often, and Plumlee delivered in a way he hadn't in the first half. Ryan Kelly then took his turn to contribute, with a good take against a smaller defender. VCU continued to find ways to score on the Blue Devils, though, finding holes for midrange shots that allowed the Rams to keep pace in the early minutes. The Blue Devils built their biggest lead of the game, though, after the Ram press trapped Quinn Cook in the corner and forced him to call timeout. Out of the timeout, Duke's aggressiveness level went up even further. Sulaimon drained a 3-pointer, Kelly completed a 3-point play, and Seth Curry got to the line, with a pair of VCU turnovers coming in between to give Duke its biggest lead of the game at 11 points.
Duke 29, VCU 28 (halftime): VCU's shooting cooled off considerably after its 5-for-10 start, making just three of their next 18 shots as Duke's defense did its part to force the Rams to spend too much time dribbling their way to poor shots. But then a pair of crucial VCU 3-pointers allowed the Rams to take advantage of Duke's poor offensive execution and re-take the lead briefly with under a minute to go. The Blue Devils missed a number of opportunites at the rim and had no presence on the offensive glass, but Quinn Cook banked in a floater with under five seconds to play to put the Blue Devils back on top going into halftime. Duke finished out the half with a combined seven points and four rebounds from Plumlee and Kelly while being outrebounded by the much smaller Rams 19-15.
Duke 23, VCU 20 (3:49, first half): Duke's bigs struggled as the clock ticked down toward five minutes, with Ryan Kelly missing a wide-open three after the Blue Devils broke the VCU press and Mason Plumlee missing a layup and committing a traveling violation while failing to grab offensive rebounds. VCU's aggressive play and unusual matchups seem to be causing problems for Duke's post presences. Duke's guards have carried the scoring load, with Quinn Cook showing a nifty drive and Rasheed Sulaimon getting to the line for a pair of free throws.
Duke 19, VCU 14 (7:18, first half): Duke came out of the second media timeout with one its largest possible lineups, putting Mason Plumlee, Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston all on the floor at once. Krzyzewski's gambit did not appear to have the intended effect, as Duke had more trouble taking care of the ball with fewer ballhandlers and did not have an easier time down low or on the boards against a small, quick VCU lineup. The Blue Devils got back into a stronger rhythm once they got back to a more traditional three-guard lineup, turning VCU's lead into a four-point Duke advantage.
Duke 12, VCU 13 (11:10, first half): Duke started pushing the ball aggressively in transition to avoid the VCU press, and was aided by several badly missed VCU shots that resulted in long rebounds for the Blue Devil guards to push the pace. Mason Plumlee demanded the ball aggressively in the post once VCU's 7-foot center was removed from the game, but could not back down athletic 6-foot-9 forward Juvonte Reddic. As the Rams went small, Ryan Kelly was being covered by guards under 6-foot-4, but was unable to take advantage of the mismatch.
Duke 7, VCU 11 (14:35, first half): Against VCU's relentless fullcourt pressure, Mason Plumlee dribbled the ball across midcourt on three of the first four possessions. He wisely recognized his favorable matchup against a much less athletic VCU center in D.J. Haley, but with Plumlee dribbling the ball 30 feet from the basket, there was little presence in the post for Duke, especially on the offensive glass. VCU won every loose ball in the early going, especially a pair of long tipped offensive rebounds. The Rams came out making everything from the floor as well, with a 5-for-10 performance. Six of Duke's nine shots have been 3-pointers, and only one of those long-range shots has gone in so far.
Duke: G Quinn Cook, G Seth Curry, G Rasheed Sulaimon, F Ryan Kelly, C Mason Plumlee
VCU: G Darius Theus, G Treveon Graham, G Troy Daniels, F Juvonte Reddic, C D.J. Haley
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