GREENSBORO, N.C.—Still alive.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils brought another strong offensive performance to Greensboro Coliseum Friday night to take down No. 1-seed Miami 85-78 and remain in the running for an ACC tournament championship. A balanced scoring approach kept several Blue Devils in rhythm and continued the trend of superlative ball movement going into the tight final stretch of the contest.
Freshman guard Tyrese Proctor facilitated the efficient scoring yet again with his five assists. He and Dariq Whitehead combined for a lethal combo from beyond the arc, shooting 5-for-8, as five Blue Devils scored more than 13 points. The ACC’s top rebounding team by average margin also added on to its trend of success when it outrebounds its opponents, now at a comfortable 24-4 in such games.
Freshman center Kyle Filipowski played without any limitations after briefly exiting Thursday’s game, and a double-double helped pad Duke’s rebound advantage per usual.
Duke’s lead was not comfortable enough until the final seconds, though, despite their overall success on the offensive end. Down 81-76, Miami needed a near-miracle to overtake the Blue Devils in the final minute, and freshman forward Mark Mitchell pulled down the rebound to all but seal the Duke win.
"Really proud of our team," head coach Jon Scheyer said. "I think it shows our growth to be in a big-time battle like this where there's not that separation. We weren't going to be able to pull away."
With a 55-52 lead with 13:20 to go, Filipowski connected on a corner 3-pointer and followed it up with a layup two possessions later to keep a threatening Miami team at arm’s length. As Duke aimed to pick up the scoring pace, Miami’s Isaiah Wong scored 14 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half to urge his team into the stretch-run with a manageable deficit.
The Blue Devils continued to attack the paint and drew several fouls on the Hurricanes as they struggled to push the lead beyond the two-possession separation they had worked with for much of the game. The teams traded baskets for nearly seven minutes in the heart of the final period.
Miami’s Jordan Miller broke the back-and-forth with 6:59 left to play when he converted a layup through a Dereck Lively II foul. He missed the and-one opportunity but still gave Miami a glimmer of hope that it could retake the lead with a 66-65 score.
"We know they're going to make runs but we've got to stick together and have confidence," junior guard Jeremy Roach said. "... You can't hang your heads if they have a run because they're a good team."
Wong picked up his crucial fourth foul on a Whitehead 3-point attempt, and the Newark, N.J., native calmly sank the three shots from the line with 5:12 to go as the overwhelmingly Duke-favoring crowd rose to their feet.
"I thought the crowd was incredible. When the chants started 'let's go Duke,' for me, that was everything to me," Scheyer said.
Filipowski added a bucket and Mitchell drew a foul on the other end of the floor to bring the lead back up to six as the minutes ticked away. Filipowski again handed Duke a six-point lead as he muscled his way through the paint with 3:13 to play.
Roach hit the game’s biggest shot as he came off a screen and buried a three from the left wing to hand the Blue Devils a 78-71 lead with 92 seconds remaining.
"I really was trying to get another three up because I knew the next one was probably going to go in," Roach said. "Stick my follow-through and stick to the work and have that confidence that I've always had."
Early on, Proctor picked up where he left off Thursday afternoon by dishing an assist to Lively before connecting on his first of three 3-pointers. The physicality of the ACC tournament semifinal included Roach taking a Wong elbow to the face, earning him two free throws early. Roach also exchanged words with Miami head coach Jim Larranaga after hitting a baseline jumper midway through the first.
Miami star forward Norchad Omier left the floor just more than a minute into the contest after tweaking his right ankle. Anthony Walker took his place off the bench and was asked to fulfill the daunting task of replacing a physical player who averages a double-double. His paint presence was missed as the Blue Devils converted at a high rate near the basket, unlike early on in their Feb. 6 loss in South Florida.
"The main thing for this game was to come in and be aggressive," said Whitehead, who missed that game due to a lower leg injury.
The Blue Devils built a 41-36 lead to take into the half thanks to an 8-2 run featuring six points from the hand of Whitehead and a putback dunk for Lively. Miami struck from deep twice in 28 seconds at the start of the second to keep Duke’s lead from growing from 46-38.
Twelve lead changes in a lightning-speed first half kept Scheyer’s team on its toes as Larranaga’s Hurricanes kept up the pressure from outside. While Duke shot an efficient clip from beyond the arc, Miami favored volume shooting and converted eight of their 25 attempts from deep.
Proctor and Lively’s defense were key in the big win Thursday, but their ability to cut off the drive against a tougher Miami team was limited. Nonetheless, they held the biggest leads of the back-and-forth contest to help the Blue Devils advance to the ACC title game.
"It's a big-time opportunity to play in the championship game for the ACC tourney, and we're going to savor it and give it our all tomorrow night," said Scheyer.
Duke faces No. 2-seed Virginia for the title Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.