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X-MEN: Duke men's basketball takes down Xavier, punches ticket to Phil Knight Legacy championship game

Jeremy Roach's season-high 21 points led Duke past Xavier at the Phil Knight Legacy.
Jeremy Roach's season-high 21 points led Duke past Xavier at the Phil Knight Legacy.

PORTLAND, Ore.—One of history’s great questions concerns who fired the infamous “shot heard ‘round the world” to kickstart the Revolutionary War. 

In the semifinal of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament at the Moda Center Friday afternoon, the question was not who shot first, but who shot next. No. 8 Duke shook Thursday’s wasteful shooting performance en route to a 71-64 victory against Xavier, spearheaded once again by its talented freshman class and an impressive 21-point showing from junior captain Jeremy Roach.

"Man, that was a great win for us," head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. "I thought we played a 40-minute game, really together, we fought, we defended very well. I thought Jeremy Roach's leadership throughout the whole game was a key. A lot of different guys stepped up with some big time contributions."

One of the talking points with Scheyer’s young team is its ability to close out games. It failed to do so in its loss against No. 3 Kansas and squeaked past Oregon State by the skin of its teeth, so when Friday’s game entered crunch time and Duke (6-1) needed to perform, all eyes were on the Blue Devils to show up. 

Graduate student center Ryan Young stepped up big in that regard, using his solid fundamentals and large frame to out-muscle the defense and grab some huge layups down the stretch. As the result indicates, Duke was successful in its efforts—an important achievement given the caliber of opponent it will face in Sunday’s championship game.

"We've had games like that," Roach said. "I mean, obviously the Kansas game, we were up five in the same position. We wanted to learn from that, from those mistakes that we [made]. And I think we did that today."

A back-and-forth first period gave way to a more subdued second half in which the tempo slowed and shots stalled. At least, it appeared that way, before the Musketeers (5-2) drained a quick 3-pointer, took a steal back for a layup and got an and-one on Young’s third foul, and all of a sudden the game was within one possession.

It was a trend that continued: Crucial Duke bucket, quick Xavier response to put the game within reach, rinse and repeat. When this pattern emerged, defense came to the fore, and the Blue Devil freshman duo of Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively II—both seven-footers—became a crucial asset on the boards.

"It really just came down to defense," Lively said. "All of our defense transitions into offense, and we knew if we took out [Xavier's] bigs, we'd been able to make shots and just move the ball."

Like Oregon State the day before, Xavier simply refused to go away whenever the Blue Devils took the lead. Clinical shooting from downtown and a deadly edge on fast-break opportunities gave the Musketeers an inroad against Duke’s tall defensive contingent that hoarded the defensive glass throughout both halves.

Just when Xavier got hot from deep, however, so did the Blue Devils.

Freshman forward Dariq Whitehead got the party started for Duke with an athletic shot over his defender. Xavier responded with a couple of its own to take the lead. Then, Roach turned on the gas with two consecutive makes from downtown to quickly shift a four-point deficit into a seven-point advantage.

The junior was quiet Thursday against the Beavers, finishing with just seven points and four assists. By the buzzer Friday, the preseason All-ACC First Team selection had more than doubled that point total with a season-high 21 points and improved his mark as a playmaker with five assists.

"[Roach] was on all night tonight," Young said. "We were going to a lot of pick and roll stuff and I think we were able to play a little bit of a drop coverage in a ball screen. So we're emphasizing for our guards to get in the middle of that paint there. It's easy to make finishes and get open looks when we have such great guard play."

On Xavier’s side, graduate guard Souley Boum was the standout player. The UTEP transfer shone throughout the game with 23 points and a perfect 12-of-12 mark from the charity stripe, all while shooting 62.5% from the floor. In a game that regularly needed someone to step up and make a difference, Boum stepped up big-time.

Filipowski got Duke’s scoring account started with a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from just off center and a fast-break lay-in the following play. Though the Westtown, N.Y., native notched a career-best 19 points and 14 rebounds in Thursday’s close run with Oregon State, Filipowski talked postgame about ‘coming out ready to get it.’ He made good on that wish Friday, with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting to go along with four rebounds, including each of Duke’s opening seven points.

The most impressive of these was a behind-the-back cross that sent his defender reeling, allowing Filipowski to pull up for a deep jumper that sailed through without a sound.

Though Filipowski once again showed his stuff, Lively made his long-awaited mark on both sides of the floor with a couple of towering defensive rebounds and a big block early, and length on offense that the Musketeers struggled to contain. Nowhere was this clearer than after Mark Mitchell’s muffed lay-in in the first half, where Lively leapt over his defender for a powerful dunk to open his scoring account.

Add five points from third-ranked-recruit Whitehead and 16 points from Mitchell to the equation, and Duke’s newcomers put on a show. Mitchell in particular sprang to life after the break and put his range of talents on full display with a couple of early buckets and an open 3-pointer to extend the Blue Devil lead to 13.

The Blue Devils return to the Moda Center Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for a date in the championship game with No. 24 Purdue.


Andrew Long | Blue Zone editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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