After yet another disappointing loss, the Blue Zone is here to give you a summary of the Duke men's basketball game against Louisville in as concise a manner as we can—in one word:
One word: Energy
Any game played between Duke and Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center is bound to be a good one, and Saturday’s game did not disappoint. While the game sadly did not end in a victory for the Blue Devils, they certainly brought an energy to the game that’s been missing from their recent games. There was a clear hunger in the eyes of every player on that court. The stats don’t necessarily show the energy Duke put into the game, but by watching the body language of the players, one could see just how done with losing the Blue Devils feel.
Jordan Goldwire, as he continues to lead the ACC in steals, averaging 2.6 per game, had two steals. Jalen Johnson and Joey Baker each had one. Multiple players committed so intensely to playing defense that they ended up sprawled all over the floor -- sometimes taking Louisville players down with them. One large issue was the sheer number of fouls committed by Duke, which is becoming a bad habit that shows no signs of going away. Louisville shot 75 percent from the free throw line, resulting in 18 points from free throws alone. That goes to say that perhaps some of the energy and enthusiasm the Blue Devils put into this game could have been better redirected to fouling less. However, Duke never let the Cardinals get more than six points ahead of them, a massive difference from recent games where the Blue Devils will come from being down fifteen points or so to almost tie up the game. Ultimately, the intensity with which this game was played was promising for the rest of the season.
One stat: 18 lead changes
18 lead changes, with at least four in the last four minutes feels like a very encompassing statistic to emphasize the competitiveness and energy with which this game was played. Every Cameron Crazie out in the wild on Saturday night could feel their heart in their throat on each possession of the last five minutes. With Duke and Louisville constantly switching leads, the game felt much more attainable for the entirety as compared to many games earlier this season. While Duke did finish down by five, that was just at the hands of Carlik Jones, who the Blue Devils had to foul towards the end of the game. The final score undermines the intensity of the last half of the game. The ball movement on Duke’s end allowed them to make good shot selections, which resulted in a higher field goals made/attempted of about 46 percent. For a team that was shooting in the low thirties a couple weeks ago, the difference was obvious.
14 lead changes at 3:44
One player: Matthew Hurt
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Matthew Hurt fouled out with 1:50 to go in the game and it could very easily be argued that had he remained in the game, the Blue Devils would’ve won. Nonetheless, his performance on Saturday was impressive even for him. While Hurt is consistently the team’s top scorer, he went above and beyond against Louisville, almost passing his career high. Despite being covered by David Johnson, who stuck to Hurt like glue for the entire second half, he was still able to get 24 points, each of which felt like a crucial point in the game.
Hurt had a multitude of shots that were impressive, but there was one jump shot that he took just a minute or so before fouling out that showed just how good at basketball he is. He caught the ball with his back to the basket, turned, and immediately shot and sunk the ball in. Anyone with eyes could tell you that the Minnesota natives’s points in this game were the real difference maker for Duke. Hurt also finished the game with eight rebounds, where the team as a whole struggled compared to Louisville, but Hurt had no issue with. Despite, or maybe as seen by, Hurt fouling out, the plays he made in this game set the energy for the Blue Devils’ performance against Louisville.
After falling to the Cardinals on Saturday, one can only hope that Duke brings the same amount of passion and energy to play Georgia Tech on Tuesday. If they can harness that same energy right, they’re in for another great game.