For a little more than 10 minutes Sunday afternoon, it looked as if Boston University might ruin the Blue Devils' Senior Day festivities—a couple of Terrier goals sandwiched around an empty Duke possession had staked the visitors to a quick 2-0 advantage.
But in what was likely to be his penultimate contest in Durham, the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year made sure that his team would not fall victim to a stunning upset.
Justin Guterding's opening tally sparked an electric 11-1 Blue Devil run—one that spanned nearly a half-hour of play—as No. 5 Duke eased past Boston 13-9 to wrap up its regular season with just three losses in 16 games. Guterding finished the afternoon with five goals on 14 shots complemented by four assists, as the senior moved within four points of the century mark for the season and within 20 of Matt Danowski's all-time Blue Devil record.
The win also helped Duke lock up the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, meaning the Blue Devils will host Villanova at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in the round of 16 before a potential quarterfinal matchup with either fifth-seeded Johns Hopkins or Georgetown May 20.
"It felt great. We got the seniors on the field and it was nice coming up with them. We've all worked so hard and it feels really good," Guterding told GoDuke.com. "We're going to be spending a lot of time together as a team and that's what we love—we just want one more week with the guys and we're going to work hard so that we can get another week and then another week."
After Guterding opened Duke's scoring ledger for the afternoon, the Blue Devils knotted the game just before the end of the first quarter as junior Sean Lowrie scored with just four seconds left to beat the buzzer. Lowrie went on to score twice more during the dominant Duke outburst, finishing the day with a career-high four goals—the Foxborough, Mass., native entered the day with just a dozen so far this season.
"I liked the way he practiced this week," Guterding said of Lowrie. "He had an awesome week of practice and it paid off. He's such a skilled lacrosse player with both hands and he's capable of doing this consistently, so I'm excited to see him hopefully break out and I'm really proud of him."
The Blue Devils then broke the tie, notching three goals in less than two minutes at the start of the second period, opening up a 5-2 advantage thanks to scores from freshman Joe Robertson, Guterding and Lowrie.
And with Guterding sitting at 199 career goals, the stage was set for the 6-foot attackman to put on a dazzling display of moves from behind the goal, slipping his 200th score past Terrier netminder Joe McSorley.
"It's very humbling but again, I wouldn't be here without my teammates and coaches," Guterding said of reaching the milestone. "It felt good getting that hug from [current assistant coach] Matt [Danowski] afterwards saying congrats, but it's exciting, I'm not going to lie.
"If you asked me before my career, I don't think I would've ever thought I'm going to be where I am, but I've worked really hard for this and it feels good."
By halftime, Duke had ripped off eight straight goals to go up 8-2, and after Boston drew first blood following intermission, the Blue Devils responded with three more goals to make it a comfortable 11-3 lead.
The Terriers would not go quietly, though. The visitors scored six of the game's final eight goals as sophomore James Burr scored his 43rd, 44th and 45th goals of the season in the last 20 minutes.
But after controlling play early, Duke was able to hang on for the win, and the Blue Devils will enter the postseason with three or fewer losses for the first time since 2014—when they last won a national title.
"We've got to play for 60 minutes," Guterding said. "We felt like we laid off at the end and allowed them to get a few more goals and that feels kind of sour in our mouths. But we won, so we're excited and it's off to the next game.
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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."