NEW YORK—Last year, the Blue Devils squared off with Utah in the Sweet 16 and earned a gritty 63-57 victory en route to a national championship.
This time around, the ending was more sour than sweet for Duke.
The Utes knocked off the No. 7 Blue Devils 77-75 in overtime Saturday at Madison Square Garden, scorng the last five points of regulation and the first five of the extra session. Freshman Brandon Ingram had a chance to tie the game with less than five seconds left in overtime after beating his defender off the dribble from the left wing, but his scoop shot rolled off the rim and into the arms of Utah's Kyle Kuzma.
Duke held the ball on an inbounds pass under the Utes’ basket and started to run a pre-set play, but the game clock started running prematurely—forcing the Blue Devils to scrap their initial play and regroup without the benefit of a timeout.
“The clock screwed up, so they took away our play. Then we didn’t have our timeout because we used it to set up the play,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Obviously, [Ingram's layup] was a great option—it was point blank. I feel bad for the kid—I mean really bad…It’s not his fault we lost. A really good player wants that ball in that position and when it doesn’t happen, he beats himself up. He’ll beat himself up for that.”
Utah (9-2) had a chance to win the game in regulation after calling a timeout with 12.8 seconds left, but Kuzma—who gashed the Blue Devils (9-2) all afternoon for 21 points— missed an open 3-pointer from up top of the key that sent the game into overtime. But the Utes responded by hitting their first four shots in the extra session, and the game appeared all but finished when they held a 77-71 lead with 11 seconds remaining.
But Duke freshman Luke Kennard—who led all scorers with a career-high 24 points—drilled a deep 3-pointer and drew contact from Utah guard Lorenzo Bonam, giving him an opportunity for a 4-point play. After Kennard sunk the free throw to cut the lead to 77-75, Dakarai Tucker dropped the inbounds pass for Utah to hand the ball back to the Blue Devils under their own basket, but Ingram could not convert.
“Coach told us that we needed to get a quick three, and then Derryck came to my side and pitched it to me,” Kennard said. “I just knew we had to get a quick three off so I shot it, and I got fouled, and I was hoping it went in, just to give us a chance to pull through.”
Duke did not score for the final 4:12 of regulation and shot just 29.9 percent for the game as Utah blocked several Blue Devil drives around the rim late in the second half and in the extra session.
With 30 seconds remaining, Ingram had some open space in front of him and pulled the trigger on a potential go-ahead 3-pointer. But the shot clanked off the rim, and Utah held the ball for the remainder of regulation.
“I think we responded better than any other team would. We still played, and Luke knocked down some big shots, and we stayed in it the whole game,” Ingram said. “We played well, the shots just weren’t falling.”
After being held scoreless in the first half and missing all seven of his field goal attempts, sophomore Grayson Allen—who Krzyzewski said after the game has been battling flu-like symptoms for two days—drained a 3-pointer from the corner to open the scoring in the second half and tie the game. But Kuzma quickly put the Utes back on top with a jumper from the wing, kickstarting of a 9-0 run for Utah.
Duke responded with an 18-2 spurt during which it held the Utes without a field goal for nearly five minutes. After center Marshall Plumlee picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, the Blue Devils went without a true post player—featuring Ingram at the five—for much of the second half, including this pivotal run.
In just their second game without senior forward Amile Jefferson—who is sidelined with a right foot fracture—the Blue Devils struggled mightily early on against Utah center Jakob Poeltl and company. The Utes doubled up Duke on the glass in the first half, grabbing 24 boards to the Blue Devils’ 12. Utah wound up with a 56-38 advantage on the glass, and Poeltl dazzled with 19 points and 14 rebounds despite battling foul trouble of his own.
With his team trailing by two, Ingram—who finished with 15 points in 42 minutes—used his 7-foot-3 wingspan to deflect a crosscourt pass, which he converted into a breakaway dunk on the other end. Junior Matt Jones then nailed a deep 3-pointer to give the Blue Devils a 47-44 lead—their first lead since the 16:38 mark in the first half. Four more points from Kennard and Thornton—who swapped places in the starting lineup Saturday and combined for 32 points—pushed the Duke lead to seven with eight minutes left to play.
“It was crazy to look around and see Brandon Ingram as the tallest player on our team, but at the same time I always have confidence in whoever’s out there with me on the court,” Jones said. “We were just going to fight. Whoever was out there, our mentality was just to fight.”
Duke will now take a nine-day break from game action for the holidays, and will return to the floor Dec. 28 against Elon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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