Following a big win against Virginia, Duke traveled to Louisville to play the Cardinals, pulling off a miraculous comeback to sneak out a win 71-69. The Blue Zone breaks down three takeaways and three stats from the game as well as provides a quick look forward for the Blue Devils:
3 Key Takeaways:
Hello, Jordan Goldwire
Jordan Goldwire is alive and well.
And he can play, too. The sophomore reserve played for 12 full minutes in Tuesday night’s’ contest, easily the most important court time that he has seen in a Duke uniform. Registering no points on two tries, what helped spur the comeback for the Blue Devils was not his scoring prowess, but rather his defensive ability. Zion Williamson even went as far as to name him the MVP of the game in a postgame interview, likely referencing the Norcross, Ga., native’s two steals and his ability to be an all-around nuisance in the full court press.
Dishing out two assists and gathering in two rebounds to boot, Goldwire’s line was not the stuff game MVPs are putting up, especially with this star-studded freshman class leading the way. But his energy and court presence galvanized the seemingly defeated Blue Devil squad to a historic win.
Bench play leaves something to be desired
The comeback stats will come later. It is easy to be mired in the energy of the win, but the Blue Devils still played an atrocious thirty minutes of basketball.
This was only hurt by the relatively nonexistent bench production, sans Jordan Goldwire. The fact is, there will be games when Zion Williamson gets into foul trouble, the shots aren’t falling for Cam Reddish, and the defense is all over R.J. Barrett. This is ACC basketball, where every team needs to have seven to eight players capable of being game changers.
And the bench is simply not stepping up. The combination of Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, and Alex O’Connell registered 32 minutes last night, and had one point to show for it, on zero attempts from the field. DeLaurier hit one free throw to go along with three personal fouls. White registered a foul and a turnover, and O’Connell gave the ball away once as well.
The bench production will need to improve if the Blue Devils are going to pull out close games come tournament time.
Blue Devils ice cold from deep
Despite Cam Reddish hitting a few when it counted the most, Duke’s performance from beyond the arc was atrocious at best.
The Blue Devils were 7-of-28 from three, good for a mere 25 percent conversion rate after a lights-out shooting day against Virginia. Perhaps this is simply a regression to the mean, but performances like this will continue to get Duke in trouble as the season moves on and the games get bigger.
On the bright side, R.J Barrett was 2-for-4 from downtown, and even though Reddish shot 14 treys and only made four, he hit them when the Blue Devils started rolling. There have been encouraging signs, but this game proves that Duke is not quite out of the water yet when it comes to outside scoring.
3 Key Stats
This one is a layup. Too soon, Jordan?
Duke was trailing by 23 points with just over nine minutes on the clock. Zion Williamson checked back in with four fouls, and was a plus-25 from the time he re-entered until the final buzzer sounds.
Some quick arithmetic tells us that this is the largest second-half comeback by a Duke team in the time that coach Mike Krzyzewski has headed the operation. For those keeping track at home, that’s a long time. In fact, to find the only larger second-half comeback by a Duke team we have to go back to 1950, when the Blue Devils erased a 31-point deficit against Tulane.
Miracles do happen, but not often— Duke cannot have another lapse of this type when the postseason commences.
.1% win probability
This is the number assigned—perhaps arbitrarily, but assigned nonetheless— by ESPN to Duke’s chances to emerge victorious after Malik Williams gathered an offensive rebound for the Cardinals with 9:17 remaining, Louisville up by 23 and with the ball.
For the more football literate among us, this looked similar to the chances that the Patriots had in Super Bowl 51 with the score 28-3 in favor of the Falcons at the midway point of the third quarter. This was truly a comeback of epic proportions.
11 steals in the second half
Coming back to Earth for a minute, there was a real reason that Duke erased this deficit. Recording 11 steals in the second half, the Blue Devils were able to secure numerous extra possessions and chances to narrow the gap. After forcing very few turnovers in the first half, the Duke side proved its resiliency and was able to do the right things to get themselves back into the game.
Coming off exhilarating wins against Virginia and Louisville, it might seem simple to ride that high through the next few games, emerging with easy wins. But Duke still faces one of the toughest four- game stretches in basketball over the next two weeks, facing two in-state rivals as well as three ranked opponents. The Blue Devils will have to keep their foot on the gas if they hope to nail down the top spot in the ACC, and won’t be able to rely on comebacks like this every time.
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