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5 observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Pittsburgh in ACC tournament quarterfinal

Kyle Filipowski shoots for two of his 14 first-half points Thursday against Pittsburgh inside Greensboro Coliseum.
Kyle Filipowski shoots for two of his 14 first-half points Thursday against Pittsburgh inside Greensboro Coliseum.

GREENSBORO, N.C.—In its postseason debut, No. 4-seed Duke started strong in Thursday afternoon’s ACC tournament quarterfinal against No. 5-seed Pittsburgh. Halfway through, the Blue Devils lead 48-32 at Greensboro Coliseum with a semifinal berth on the line.

Fresh start

When these teams met in January, the Blue Devils walked away with a 77-69 win. What the final score fails to show, though, is that Pittsburgh was in control for much of the contest; Duke trailed 43-32 at the break after yielding the final nine points of the first half and led for barely 10 minutes.

The Blue Devils got the upper hand right away in Thursday’s quarterfinal, jumping out to a 12-0 lead thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by ACC Rookie of the Year Kyle Filipowski to open the scoring, plus another three by freshman forward Dariq Whitehead. That early excellence from beyond the arc was another key difference for Duke, which shot just 6-of-27 from deep in that January win — the Blue Devils shot 6-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half Thursday. 

Injury scare

Amid Duke’s hot start, Filipowski went down beyond the arc and had to be helped to the bench with an apparent left ankle injury. He received treatment courtside from the training staff, walked to the locker room without assistance and returned to the bench before entering the game with 11:16 on the clock. 

Filipowski was not quite able to keep up his torrid offensive pace from the opening minutes, but he remained a key factor for the Blue Devil offense, getting back on the board with a layup at the 8:32 mark. Just more than a minute later, the 7-foot freshman got the steal on one end before hitting the trailer three on the other, then followed it up with an and-one on the next possession. Filipowski finished the half with a game-high 14 points, almost as if he had never left.

Defense never rests

Filipowski’s early exit changed the pace of the game for the Blue Devils, but the Panthers still struggled to cut into Duke’s lead as the half progressed. Pittsburgh’s only field goal in the first eight minutes came on an inside move by sophomore center Federiko Federiko, and by the time Jamarius Burton hit a turnaround jumper to stop the drought, the Blue Devils held a 16-6 lead.

There was no one individual star for Duke in its early defensive stand, but freshman center and recent ACC All-Defense selection Dereck Lively II provided his usual fireworks at the rim, gathering a pair of early blocks and finishing the half with seven points to his name.

Backcourt business

In an all-around strong half for the Blue Devils, not much of the scoring came from the backcourt — at least not at first. Junior captain Jeremy Roach and freshman running mate Tyrese Proctor combined to take just seven shots in the opening frame, but the duo’s impact could be felt late.

Proctor, for his part, led both teams in assists, dishing seven and finding Filipowski for his third three of the half. Roach, who missed the previous meeting with the Panthers due to a lingering toe injury, made few entries into the box score but was key to Duke’s early defensive effort. 

With under three minutes in the half, Proctor added his final assist, a creative flick to Lively for the dunk. On the next possession, he stepped into a three with the shot clock winding down, and shortly after, Roach hit a three of his own. When all was said and done, the two had combined for 12 points in the first.

Player of the half: Kyle Filipowski

There is little left to say about Filipowski’s first-half performance: In his 10 minutes, he was far and away the most impactful player on the floor, and his return to the game helped the Blue Devils keep up the offensive pace that looked as if it was beginning to elude them in his absence. 

His left ankle is certainly worth keeping an eye on in the second half, but at this pace, Filipowski will flirt with his current career-high of 29 points. The Panthers will have little chance of fending off a costly loss without forcing the Duke offense to look elsewhere.

Jonathan Levitan | Sports Editor

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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