The last time the Blue Devils played on the West Coast, they ended up cutting down the nets in San Francisco. And while it was often in doubt on Thanksgiving Day, Duke continued its winning ways out west Thursday to keep its pursuit of another trophy alive and well.
No. 8 Duke found itself in a battle with Oregon State in its opening game at the Phil Knight Legacy in Portland, Ore., ultimately overcoming a poor shooting day to advance to the second round with a 54-51 win. Freshman center Kyle Filipowski (19 points, 14 rebounds) and graduate student Ryan Young (11 points, 15 rebounds) provided the spark for the Blue Devils, who never quite put away the upstart Beavers at Veterans Memorial Coliseum but prevailed all the same.
"You have to find a way to gut it out, and proud of figuring out a way to win," head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. "That’s what our program has been about, we need to continue to figure out how to do that and the thing about this tournament, you have to turn the page very quickly now and get ready for whoever we play tomorrow."
Duke (5-1) put itself in a position to win with a 50-49 lead inside of the one-minute mark Thursday, even after trailing for much of the second half. Junior guard Dexter Akanno had a chance to tie or take the lead for the Beavers (3-2) with 55 seconds on the clock but missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Blue Devils a chance to put the game away.
In response, Filipowski finished the run that he helped ignite, putting a miss by graduate wing Jacob Grandison up and in off the offensive glass. His bucket put Duke up 52-49, and Grandison’s two free throws put the Blue Devils up three with 11 seconds to play.
"Jake (Grandison), they’ve been in those moments, so they weren’t afraid. ... You feel like, when he’s at the line, end of the game, he’s going to knock in those two free throws. And he knows what to do," Scheyer said.
With Duke struggling to restore its halftime lead, Filipowski eventually broke through for Duke, becoming the first Blue Devil aside from Young to net a second-half basket with a plunging and-one at the 9:59 mark. Two minutes later, the seven-footer let loose a leaning 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 45-45.
Filipowski also let loose a cry of emotion as he backpedaled away from his big shot. He had just provided a seismic shift in a game that was slipping away from Duke, and just moments later, junior guard Jeremy Roach capitalized, pulling up in the lane to put the Blue Devils ahead 47-45—their first lead since early in the half.
"He’s a big-time competitor," Scheyer said of Filipowski. "I thought he hasn’t gotten off to the best starts but he’s always, when the game is on the line, he’s not afraid. He hit some big-time shots, the three of course was huge for us to tie it, but those offensive rebounds he had were big-time."
Clinging to a two-point halftime lead, the Blue Devils fell flat in the opening minutes of the second half. Duke extended its first-half woes by starting off 0-for-9 from the field, while the Beavers surged ahead 33-29 with the first six points out of the locker room. Young eventually ended the drought for the Blue Devils with a putback layup, but Oregon State made it clear that it would not go quietly; the Beavers took their largest lead at 38-32 on Akanno’s 3-pointer just moments later.
While Duke struggled from the field, Young quietly helped to keep the Blue Devils in it. The 6-foot-10 Northwestern transfer was active on the glass, prolonging Duke possessions and preventing the Beavers from widening their lead.
"As Coach Scheyer mentions, it's tournament play. And these games, you never have an easy game," Young said. "... If we don’t come out demonstrative and aggressive, all of a sudden, it’s a dog fight. I think gritty is the right way to describe it, and I’m just proud of the way that we were able to gut it out."
Oregon State found its offense first Thursday, attempting its first six shots from 3-point range and connecting on three. Dynamic freshman guard Jordan Pope capped off the early flurry for the Beavers, sinking an acrobatic shot from beyond the arc to put the underdogs up 9-5 at the first media timeout.
It was freshman forward Dariq Whitehead, playing in his third-career game after making his Blue Devil debut Friday against Delaware, who entered off the bench and ignited Duke’s offense. The former No. 3 recruit collected the first two 3-pointers of his career to halt the Beavers’ early run, helping the Blue Devils take their first lead at 13-11.
With the Blue Devils still struggling to find their footing in the halfcourt with the break approaching, Oregon State took advantage of Duke’s cold 1-of-7 shooting stretch to seize a 17-16 lead. Freshman center Dereck Lively II—who tallied two points in 10 minutes Thursday—swiftly turned that around on the following play, helping the Blue Devils to re-establish themselves with a seemingly effortless slam on a feed from Roach.
Duke shot the lights out Monday against Bellarmine and collected a season-high 14 threes, but it was a different story in the first half Thursday. The Blue Devils hit 4-of-15 triples and shot 10-of-31 from the field. Roach beat the shot clock with a quick-release 3-pointer on Duke’s final possession to salvage a 29-27 lead at the break, but it was an all-around unremarkable shooting performance for Scheyer’s team early.
"We found a way to win so I’m happy," Scheyer said. "But just like anything, I need some time to digest and go over how did we start the game and why are we not getting off to better starts? That’s something for me, as a coach, I take responsibility for."
Now, the Blue Devils await the result of Thursday evening’s matchup between Florida and Xavier to find out their opponent for Friday's 3:30 p.m. semifinal.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.