After dropping back-to-back ACC games, Duke’s struggles continued in the first half and the Blue Devils now find themselves down 36-33 at the half. We bring you five observations from the first 20 minutes of play in what is shaping up to be a close one:
There are fans in this arena
The presence of fans in the KFC Yum! Center is something Duke has not seen since it traveled to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame in December. While the Louisville faithful provided a morale boost for the Cardinals, Duke managed to maintain its composure and keep the game close all half.
While the real impact of the fans may not fully be appreciated until crunch time hits, the Blue Devils don’t look to be in danger of being starstruck by an arena with fans in the stands.
Rain was not in the forecast
Coming into this matchup, Louisville was last in the ACC in 3-point attempts with 201 total, but the Cardinals started the game off unafraid to pull up from the land of plenty. Three of their first four made field goals were 3-pointers, each from a different player to bring them an early lead.
It took Duke a little bit longer to pour it on from downtown, but once its perimeter shooters got going, the Blue Devils showed they too can hit from deep.
While Louisville's shooters cooled off as the half wore on, Duke's perimeter defenders need to keep a close eye on opposing shooters in the second half.
Up until today, it had been six games since Wendell Moore Jr. had seen his name etched into the starting lineup.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski opted to go with the sophomore against Louisville, and Moore put together a solid first half of basketball.
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Moore hit a step-back three to get his scoring started and then followed the bucket up with a tight contest of a Cardinal jumper. His stat line may not be filled with eye-popping numbers, but if the Charlotte native can continue to be productive, expect to see him on the court for a good chunk of the second half.
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Can Duke stop Carlik?
While Matthew Hurt and Pittsburgh’s Justin Champagnie may be getting most of the attention as they battle for scoring title in the ACC, Louisville’s Carlik Jones has quietly sat behind them with 17.9 points per game.
The graduate transfer proved why he sits third on that list, posting five points and four assists over the first 20 minutes. While he has still been relatively bottled up for his standards, Duke’s ability to mitigate Jones’ impact will be crucial to the outcome of this game.
Player of the half: Matthew Hurt
Surprise. Duke’s best player of the half was undoubtedly sophomore Matthew Hurt once again. The Minnesota native managed to get his shot from everywhere on the court and led all Blue Devils with 15 points.
He ended 3-for-3 from deep and thanks to the sophomore's contributions, Duke finds itself in a solid position heading into the second half.