With Duke advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, the Blue Zone breaks down its nail-biting win against Michigan State in the Round of 32 with one player, one word and one stat:
One player: Jeremy Roach
What a shot by the sophomore guard in clutch time. With 1:18 left in the game, shot clock winding down, Jeremy Roach hit a 3-pointer to put the Blue Devils up four after going down five points just four minutes prior. After that, the Blue Devils rode the rest of the game out on free throws, dancing their way into the Sweet 16. Going from a bench role late in the season to being pushed back into the starting lineup for the tournament, Roach has thrived. His speed and handles, as well as his sweet set of layup finishes, came up huge for Duke, and seemingly always at just the right time. There is no doubt Roach has taken a leap lately.
He finished the night with 15 points, making it six straight games above his season average of 8.4 and bringing his postseason average to 12.8. He also went 2-for-2 from the free throw line. Beyond his scoring, Roach dished out three assists, grabbed two rebounds and came away with an important second-half steal to secure an extra possession for Duke. Roach has provided important minutes for Duke in the tournament, slowing down the game and directing traffic alongside Wendell Moore Jr. Look for Roach to continue to provide the same quality in the Sweet 16 as Duke takes on Texas Tech.
One word: Perimeter
As Moore, a junior captain, noted in his press conference before the tournament began, Duke readjusted their defense after some disappointing late-season performances from the team. And thus far, it has looked much improved. Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero locked down the paint, allowing very little to get by them and contesting nearly every shot the Spartans put up inside. This resulted in just 28 paint points allowed, compared to the 44 that Duke put up. The defensive adjustments have certainly benefited the team.
Still, Michigan State lit Duke up from beyond the arc, going 11-for-22 in the game. The threes seemed to rain down against the Blue Devils, especially as the Spartans hit five in a row as the first half was coming to a close. With both teams trading impressive shots, Duke’s halftime lead was cut to just four. Michigan State ran intricate sets to allow their shooters to get open, with various screens and handoffs causing Duke defenders to lose their man. While the defense has improved, the competition is only going to get tougher from here. Better communication from the team can allow the Blue Devils to lock down both the paint and the perimeter, improving defensive quality and allowing for fewer open jump shots. The team closed the game in impressive fashion, but allowing a team to shoot 50% from deep puts much more pressure on them than necessary.
One stat: 20-6 run
Speaking of the impressive close to the game, the 20-6 run Duke went on in the final five minutes got it back in the driver's seat and forced the Spartans to play the foul game to have any hope of winning. There’s no doubt that the momentum shifted greatly when Tyson Walker hit a triple to put Michigan State up three with just over five to play. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski himself said in his postgame interview with CBS that he thought their ship was sinking at that moment. Two made free throws right after would put Duke down five.
But the defense put it together, basically shutting down Michigan State’s scoring for the rest of the game. Only two Spartan field goals were made from then on, including one after Trevor Keels deflected the ball into the backcourt, putting A.J. Hoggard in a sprint to beat the shot clock. After that, Banchero and Williams locked down the paint, each swatting a shot late, and Moore, Keels and Roach locked down the wings, creating turnovers and forcing bad shots. Krzyzewski spoke to the maturity his guys showed at that moment, a game that spectators could easily picture them not closing out just two weeks ago. Well, the growth spurt hit at the right time for the Blue Devils, and they move on to the next round to extend Krzyzewski’s career at least one more game.
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