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Duke men's basketball avoids upset, escapes Boston College with last-second road win

Duke freshman Kyle Filipowski reaches for the block against Boston College.
Duke freshman Kyle Filipowski reaches for the block against Boston College.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.—As the saying goes, pressure makes diamonds. Entering its Saturday afternoon matchup against Boston College, Duke found itself under immense scrutiny. N.C. State just handled them on the road, and the Blue Devils, tasked with bouncing back with their backs against the wall, found themselves with their biggest test yet.

In a back-and-forth contest, No. 16 Duke escaped from Conte Forum with a 65-64 win against the Eagles. Dariq Whitehead had one of his best games in a Duke uniform, leading the Blue Devils with 18 points. However, the victory was never close to a sure thing for Duke thanks to an impressive effort from Boston College in front of a loud home crowd.

“That was a big-time game, big-time ACC road win for us,”  head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. “Boston College [is a] really good team in general, but especially at home.”

With less than eight minutes to play, Boston College went uncharacteristically cold from the field, and Duke (12-4, 3-2 in the ACC) clawed its way back into the lead with free throws from Mark Mitchell, Ryan Young and Whitehead. It pushed the score to 59-55, even with the Blue Devils in the midst of a nine-minute field goal drought. 

Down the stretch, Mitchell came down with a huge offensive rebound and two more free throws, extending Duke’s lead to 61-57. Sophomore guard Jaeden Zackery was quick to respond with a layup, and the lead was at two. 

Then, chaos. A Kyle Filipowski layup for the Blue Devils, a Prince Aligbe three for the Eagles and a missed Whitehead dunk on a fast break led to Boston College (8-8, 2-3) trailing 63-62 with 52.2 seconds on the clock. After a turnover on the inbound pass by Duke, the Eagles found themselves with the ball. 

“For us to be in an end-of-game situation like that, I thought we grew up a lot,” Scheyer said.

On the ensuing possession, Mitchell came through with a huge block on a driving Zackery, and Duke regained possession with 37.3 seconds to play. Yet another inbound turnover from Duke saw possession change hands again, and suddenly the Eagles had a chance to take the lead. That they did, as Quinten Post's turnaround bucket gave Boston College a one-point advantage.

“I just tried to make a play on the ball,” Mitchell said of his block. “And I mean, I got there.”

After an offensive rebound on the next possession, Filipowski hit two free throws, giving Duke the 65-64 lead with 12 seconds to play. Those proved to be the game-winning free throws, as a Makai Ashton-Langford miss gave Duke back the ball with 0.5 seconds on the clock. 

“I have full confidence in [Filipowski],” Mitchell said. “Both times when it left his hand, I was like, ‘That's good.’”

To start the second half, Duke shot out on a 10-3 run with help from the four starting freshmen: Whitehead, Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor and Filipowski. In a flash, Duke was up 47-36. Although he started slowly, Proctor played a key role in stretching the lead with a triple followed by an impressive pass into a cutting Filipowski and-one. 

Duke’s improved 3-point shooting was a welcome sight for Scheyer. After struggling against N.C. State and 5-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc, the Blue Devils responded with a 6-of-17 3-point performance, highlighted by Whitehead and Proctor combining to shoot 6-of-13 from deep. 

The lead grew to as large as 14 points at 52-38, but then the Eagles flipped the switch. 

“They’re as strong of a team as you can play in the ACC,” Scheyer said of the Eagles. 

DeMarr Langford Jr. and Post both hit triples, bringing their second-half totals to five apiece, and Boston College was on an 8-0 run, down just 52-46 with 12 minutes to play. The Eagles were aided by self-inflicted wounds: Four turnovers for Duke in eight minutes brought the noise to a fever pitch in Conte Forum as the Boston College fans sensed an upset starting to form. 

Boston College would not stop. Relentless pressure amounted to no Duke points for a stretch of nearly four minutes, and suddenly, the Eagles tied the game at 54-54 after a nifty behind-the-back pass from junior guard Mason Madsen found Zackery on the fast break, forcing Scheyer to spend a timeout. 

The story of the first half for the Blue Devils was Whitehead. The freshman forward was lighting it up from deep, shooting 3-of-4 from three in the period, and he held 13 of Duke’s 37 points at the break.  

“I thought [the backcourt] really stepped up,” Scheyer said. “It's not like they played a perfect game, but that's not what we expect.” 

However, the Eagles would not go away. To end the half, Langford’s full-court pass hit Post, and the 7-foot senior made no mistake, hitting a fadeaway jumper over Dereck Lively II at the buzzer. Ashton-Langford added nine points in 19 first-half minutes for Boston College, and the half ended 37-33 in favor of Duke.

While Duke started slowly in its last matchup, a blowout loss at N.C. State, Saturday could not have been any different. Whitehead’s quick five points, along with a Young and-one finish, helped the Blue Devils shoot out to a 10-6 lead with under 16 minutes to play in the first half.

“Wednesday wasn't our best performance, obviously. I think we just wanted to prove that we can come into somewhere that's not Cameron and play a good team,” Mitchell said. “When you have a bad loss, you want to get that taste out your mouth.”

Junior guard and team captain Jeremy Roach did not suit up in this one, nursing the toe injury on his right foot that has bothered him since Nov. 27. As a result, Duke found itself with its fifth new starting five of the year: Proctor, Whitehead, Mitchell, Filipowski and Young. 

“That group has never started before [this game],” Scheyer said. “We haven't played on the road with these guys, so I thought they did a good job of communicating. So, proud of how we made it work.”

Next, Duke returns home Wednesday to take on Pittsburgh at 7 p.m.

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