BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—The last two times a top-ranked team had walked into Assembly Hall, it left the famed arena as a loser.
Wednesday night, the Blue Devils made sure that streak ended.
Despite a feisty effort from a Hoosier side that would not fade, No. 1 Duke slipped past Indiana 91-81 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, holding its opponent without a made field goal for the last 5:26 to keep the Blue Devils' undefeated start to the season alive in their first true road contest of the year. Duke got 23 points from freshman Marvin Bagley III to lead the way in a raucous environment with another 21 points from senior Grayson Allen.
“We have a lot of heart, and when it comes game time at the end, we tend to turn it up,” Allen said. “It’s just that will to win that gets us through, and I’d prefer for us to play like that from the beginning for 40 minutes, but I think you can see that our intensity picks up when it gets to the last few minutes.”
After trailing by as many as 10 early in the second half, Indiana (4-3) chipped away at the Blue Devil advantage until a Collin Hartman triple just before the 13-minute mark brought the Hoosiers level, tying the contest at 57 apiece.
With the building rocking, Indiana then seized its first lead of the game since the 6:40 mark of the first half, and only added to it, stretching its advantage to as many as four.
But just as it did in Portland, Ore., at the PK80 Invitational, Duke fought back from a second-half deficit.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of my team. We’re exhausted,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They have such a will to win—this is our ninth game in 20 days and 10 of those days, we’ve been on the road. They’re dead right now, but they certainly played those five minutes at the end with an incredible will to win.”
Consecutive and-ones from Wendell Carter Jr. and Bagley knotted the game at 67, and the Hoosiers continued to see a heavy diet of the Blue Devil big men down the stretch. Duke (9-0) fed the ball inside frequently throughout the night, racking up 44 points in the paint and getting to the line 29 times as a team.
Carter then brought the Blue Devils back even with just more than five minutes to play, nailing 1-of-2 at the charity stripe before converting yet another old-fashioned 3-point play the following possession. The freshman posted his fifth double-double of the year with 18 points and 12 boards, and from that point, Duke would not trail the rest of the way.
Allen knocked down a slick stepback trey—just his second of the night—after Indiana had closed to within one, and thanks to poor free-throw shooting and missed opportunities on offense down the stretch, the Hoosiers failed to regain the momentum
With Gary Trent Jr.'s and-one jumper just before the two-minute mark, Duke slammed the door shut.
“All of us are winners,” freshman guard Trevon Duval said. “We all hate losing and we don’t want to lose. Losing isn’t really a choice for us, so we find a way to win.”
Through the first 20 minutes of the contest, it was all offense for both the Blue Devils and Hoosiers. Although neither side found success from beyond the arc—the teams combined to shoot just 5-of-25 from 3-point land in the half—both attacked the rim at will, racking up 44 total points in the paint.
With the Indiana faithful rocking Assembly Hall from the get-go, the Hoosiers hung around for much of the opening half as the lead changed hands 10 times. The hosts doubled both Bagley and Carter early and often in the post, yet the duo scored 11 and nine before the break, respectively, staking Duke to an early 42-38 advantage.
After a big-time weekend at the PK80, it was a slightly quieter night for Bagley. The freshman superstar posted yet another double-double, tallying 10 boards to go with his 23 points, but he was just part of a balanced Blue Devil offense that got double-figure performances from four of its five starters.
Krzyzewski said that the Phoenix native was “exhausted,” adding that the entire team has been “running on fumes” after landing back in Durham at 9 a.m. Monday before leaving for Indiana Tuesday afternoon.
But just like his teammates, when it came to the most crucial moments Wednesday night, Bagley delivered, reminding basketball fans why they remain the nation’s most dangerous team.
“We just played hard,” Bagley said. “Somebody had to do it and those guys got stops when we needed them. We ended up winning the game off of that.”
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."