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One word vs. Louisville: Flat

Duke's NCAA tournament hopes are dwindling now after Saturday's loss.
Duke's NCAA tournament hopes are dwindling now after Saturday's loss.

Following each men's basketball game, the Blue Zone brings you a breakdown of the game summarized into one word, one player and one stat. Read our report of the most recent loss to Louisville:

One word: Flat

Duke entered Saturday night’s game with Louisville on a four-game winning streak and with all the momentum. Despite nice starts to both halves, it was ultimately a slow overtime period that cost the Blue Devils win, falling to 11-9 overall and 9-7 in ACC play. 

In their first matchup, Duke's inability to finish down the stretch was a dagger for the team, but this time around it was a rough first half that put them behind early and made it a game of catchup in the second half. The offensive rhythm that carried the Blue Devils in their last four games did not show up tonight. Duke had a horrendous first-half offensively, scoring just 26 points. The Blue Devils could not get shots to fall, and this set the tone poorly for the remainder of the game. Duke was 4-of-21 from 3-point range, a startlingly low 19%. Guards DJ Steward, Jeremy Roach and Jordan Goldwire shot a combined 3-of-21 from the field. Louisville’s lineup boasts a lot of size, and this definitely shook the Blue Devils off their rhythm. As electric as Steward and Roach are, neither is taller than 6-foot-2 and both have struggled against taller lineups throughout the season. 

Despite the hole Duke dug itself, it somehow found itself a restart: overtime. With the score tied and five minutes to go, it seemed that the Blue Devils could now get back on track. This was false hope. With Duke going scoreless early on, the Cardinals grabbed five quick points to start the overtime period and never looked back. 

One stat: 15 offensive rebounds for Louisville 

The Blue Devils looked much better on the defensive end this time around as compared with their first game against Louisville. However, they struggled to finish the job by securing defensive rebounds after misses. Duke allowed the Cardinals 15 offensive rebounds, none more crushing than the rebound of Carlik Jones’ missed free throw when the game was tied with 13 seconds remaining. As much as the Blue Devils have improved their defense, it is very difficult to stop an opponent who consistently gets extra opportunities to score. Losing defensive rebounds on free-throws truly emphasize Duke’s sluggish performance on the glass. 

The Blue Devils were only able to secure seven offensive rebounds themselves. This disparity in second-chance opportunities was the deciding factor in Duke’s second loss to Louisville this season. 

One player: Matthew Hurt

The one bright spot in Duke’s loss to the Cardinals was forward Matthew Hurt. Hurt was brilliant, scoring a career-high 37 points and carrying the Blue Devils through the game’s entirety. Louisville focused on Hurt defensively, but he still responded with clutch rebounds and buckets inside. Hurt definitely helped his NBA draft stock on Saturday, showcasing his ability to get a bucket anywhere on the court—most notably with his turnaround midrange shots, in which his smooth stroke never seems to miss. His high release is similar to the styles of Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. Hurt’s heroics were not enough in the end, however. The Cardinals, led by Carlik Jones, seemed to have an answer every time Duke broke level. Hurt took 21 shots and was efficient in doing so, but his teammates couldn't answer consistently when their names were called, shooting 11-for-37 combined. 

As the Blue Devils head into their final two regular season games, both on the road, they will need to shoot more efficiently, have a more balanced offensive attack, and most importantly, avoid the slow starts that plagued them tonight. Although this was not an ideal last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium for the seniors, there is still a path to the big dance and it starts Tuesday with Georgia Tech. 

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