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Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball held off by Louisville at home

Duke couldn't pull out the victory despite limiting preseason ACC Player of the Year Jordan Nwora to six points.
Duke couldn't pull out the victory despite limiting preseason ACC Player of the Year Jordan Nwora to six points.

After falling on the road against Clemson Tuesday, the Blue Devils dropped their second game in a row in a 79-73 loss to Louisville Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Cardinals established an early lead in the first half and, despite several waves of counterattack, Duke wasn't able to pull off the comeback. The Blue Zone gives you three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

1. David Johnson stuns the Cameron Crazies 

Jordan Nwora is by far the most talked-about player on this Louisville squad. But outside of a fast-break poster on Matthew Hurt, the preseason ACC Player of the Year remained largely a non-factor Saturday night. Instead, it was Cardinal freshman David Johnson who served as Louisville’s offensive engine. 

Duke star point guard Tre Jones was a step slow against Johnson the entire evening, with the fearless Cardinal guard tallying career-highs across the board with 19 points, seven assists, two blocks and three steals against one of the best defensive backcourts in college basketball. 

2. Cassius Stanley can deliver

From the beginning of the season, Cassius Stanley has proved that he's always ready for big moments. The freshman scored 13 points in Duke's season opener against Kansas in addition to 21 points in the 2K Empire Classic final against Georgetown, and Saturday night was no different. 

In the desperate first half in which Duke trailed by as much as 15 points, Stanley was the one who kept Duke within striking distance, scoring 14 points over the first 20 minutes. Even though the Los Angeles native couldn’t salvage the Blue Devils in the dwindling seconds of the game, his three breakaway slam dunks were the rare sparks that gave the Crazies a reason to stay hopeful. With Vernon Carey Jr. sunk deep in foul trouble and Tre Jones incapable of providing consistent buckets, Stanley’s 24 points and 11 rebounds saved Duke from a more humiliating result.

3. Duke couldn’t land the final punch

Starting the second half with a 10-point deficit, the Blue Devils came close to turning the game around multiple times in the second half. Three Matthew Hurt free throws with just under nine minutes left tied the game at 58. Tre Jones’ lone triple of the day helped the Blue Devils equalize once again at 63. Jordan Goldwire’s impressive, contested finish around the rim put Duke within one point with 3:26 on the clock. 

Nevertheless, the Cardinals were able to land the counterpunch each time, never allowing Duke to gain the upper hand once in the second half. Louisville demonstrated tremendous poise and was the overall better team of the night. 

Three key stats:

9:37

This is the amount of time the Blue Devils took to realize that they were in one of the toughest battles of the season. The Cardinals jumped to a 25-10 start in the first 10 minutes, with Duke turning the ball over eight times during that stretch. On the other end of the floor, Louisville was having a party in the paint, freely using the wild open backdoor for easy layups. 

48.3%, 50%, 82.4% vs. 37.1%, 24%, 72.4%

The first and second set of numbers represent Louisville’s and Duke’s percentages from the field, the perimeter and the charity stripe, respectively. The Cardinals outperformed the Blue Devils in shooting by a huge amount. Unlike the Blue Devils—who relied heavily on Hurt’s individual production beyond the arc—the Cardinals had a deep roster of shooters with six players draining at least one trey in the game. 

39:5

The Cardinal bench outscored the Blue Devils' bench by 34 points. Despite being the supposedly deeper team, Duke couldn’t find any major production from anyone outside its freshmen and Tre Jones. Alex O’ Connell stayed on the court for two minutes, while Javin Delaurier only added a block to the stat sheet in nine minutes. 

On the other side, Louisville head coach Chris Mack seemed to have no problem putting bench players on the floor. Nine players checked into the game for Louisville, each playing a minimum of 13 minutes.

Looking forward:

Duke will stay at home to host Miami in Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday. The Hurricanes just lost in overtime at home against Florida State. Duke will hope to repeat its dominance in its previous encounter with Miami to halt the team's first losing streak of the year.

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