Louisville guard El Ellis turned toward his bench after making his second of three threes in the first five minutes of play. Ellis' play and body language made it clear: The Cardinals were in Durham intending to play spoiler.
But Louisville’s hopes were short-lived. Duke jumped out to a 42-33 lead at the half and coasted its way to a 79-62 victory Monday evening, its third win in a row. Similar to its Saturday win against Syracuse, the Blue Devils used a bevy of scorers to keep the Cardinals down.
"When everybody touches [the basketball], that's how you get confidence and when you make the right play, the shot's probably going to go in," junior guard Jeremy Roach said.
Roach led Duke with 14 points, but four others also finished in double digits. Ellis, a Durham native, ended with 21 points, but it was not enough to keep up with the balanced Duke attack. The Blue Devils (20-8, 11-6 in the ACC) assisted on 19 of 29 field goals, while only turning the ball over six times. Four different Blue Devils recorded multiple assists, with Roach once again leading the pack with six.
"I feel like everybody did a great job of just making the extra pass," freshman wing Dariq Whitehead said.
After playing just 11 first-half minutes, Roach started the second period hot. He buried a pull-up jumper to give Duke its first points of the half then intercepted a Louisville pass to set up a Filipowski triple.
From then on, the Blue Devils had everything working on both sides of the court. The largest lead they jumped out to was 17, although Louisville (4-24, 2-15) did manage to whittle the lead to 10 with just more than four minutes remaining.
If there was any hope for a comeback, the trio of Roach, Mark Mitchell and Ryan Young made sure it would not happen. Young recorded two huge blocks, and Roach and Mitchell combined for eight points in three minutes to keep the contest out of reach.
"[Roach] just kept making the right play and so by the end of the game, it really opened up for him so I thought it showed a lot of maturity on his part," Scheyer said.
During the game, Duke honored the program’s first African-American player, C.B. Claiborne, both by introducing him at center court and with custom warmup jerseys featuring his name and number.
Former Duke player and assistant coach Nolan Smith was also in the building, but he was sporting Cardinal red. Smith left the Duke coaching staff last year and Monday marked his first-time coaching against the Blue Devils since his departure. The Cameron Crazies didn’t hold any grudge though, giving him a warm welcome when the loudspeaker called out his name.
Little mistakes plagued the Blue Devils at the beginning of the game. A Roach missed layup, Filipowski turnover and a Dereck Lively II missed free throw had Duke off to a sluggish start. By the time the first media timeout came, the Cardinals had jumped out to a 13-7 lead.
Louisville kept the momentum for the next four minutes of play, too, jumping out to an 18-9 lead. Duke worked its way back into the contest thanks to some savvy ball movement, but with 11:26 remaining in the first half, the Blue Devils were in a four-point hole in a contest in which they came in as 18-point favorites.
Throughout the opening 20 minutes, there was not just one Blue Devil responsible for squashing the Cardinals’ surge. Lively did his share with nine first-half points, but graduate wing Jacob Grandison and freshman guard Tyrese Proctor each made a pair of threes that were crucial to sparking Duke’s offense.
That trio did not even include Duke’s leading scorer of the half. That title belonged to Mitchell, who came on strong in the closing minutes of the half to end with 11 points.
"I could go on and on about each of our guys," Scheyer said of the team's overall play. "They all stepped up."
If there was any single reason for Duke’s early 20-4 run, it was the Blue Devil defense. Louisville went on a three-minute scoring drought and by the time the Cardinals could get back on the scoreboard, Duke had jumped out to a 22-20 lead.
No play was bigger in the first half than Whitehead’s steal at the 4:17 mark. Whitehead deflected a pass toward the sideline, then dove into media row to save the ball. Roach corralled the loose ball and found a streaking Mitchell, who slammed it home to put Duke up 31-24.
Immediately after the media timeout, Roach and Mitchell decided to do it again, giving Duke a nine-point lead, its biggest of the night up to that point.
"Just turning defense into offense...We can get out and run off of our defense, that's something that's really good for us," Mitchell said.
Duke gets to stay in Durham the rest of the week while it awaits a Saturday matchup against Virginia Tech, which beat the Blue Devils in Blacksburg, Va., back in January.
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Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.