FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.—This time around, the thousands of fans clad in white and frantically screaming at the court weren’t there for the Blue Devils’ sake. The residents of the most notorious stadium in college basketball got a taste of their own medicine Wednesday night in front of a raucous 20,344-person crowd (the largest ever) inside Bud Walton Arena. And man, was it bitter.
No. 7 Duke and Arkansas battled it out in the first iteration of the ACC/SEC Challenge, renewing a longstanding NCAA tournament rivalry between storied programs. In this regular-season edition, it was the Razorbacks and their second-half surge who came out on top, winning 80-75.
"There wasn't a collective toughness that you have to have on the road with some of those stops, with some some of those rebounds," head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game.
It’s shocking how quickly a double-digit lead can melt away. With 2:16 to play, Arkansas led by 12. With 1:20, that number was 10. Then seven, then five, then four. Somehow, some way, the Blue Devils (5-2) got themselves within two possessions. With a fighting chance, an opportunity to pull off the unthinkable. Down five with 24 seconds to go, Filipowski drove and was fouled on the layup attempt. With 17.4 seconds on the clock, he made them both. Three point game. But one Davonte Davis free throw and missed Caleb Foster three later, it was still the Razorbacks (5-3) on top.
"A lot of teams would have been run out of the gym at that point..." said Scheyer. "I think that's a credit to our guys with what they have inside of them. We just have to do that all the time."
With 9:25 to play and a 13-point deficit, Scheyer called a timeout, his second of the period. The Blue Devils needed answers. They needed a hero. And while sophomore center Kyle Filipowski (26 points, 10 rebounds) tried to play the part, his inefficient but substantial shooting night wasn’t nearly enough. Arkansas shot 14-for-23 from the field in the second half, exploding for 47 points, 15 of which came at the hands of Khalif Battle. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, a singular Blue Devil was in the positives in plus-minus — graduate center Ryan Young, with plus-one in just three minutes on the court. Every Razorback was on the right side of zero.
From 13:12 to 12:13, the Razorbacks went on their second 7-0 run of the night. This one was spearheaded by five points from Khalif Battle scored within 20 seconds. Just as the Blue Devils had started to build momentum, El Ellis stripped it away. The graduate student was the one who started off the run with a long two.
A one-point lead became three, then five, then eight. Sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor missed his fourth three of the night, and Battle extended it to 10 with ease.
From the 1:01 mark in the first half to 16:43 in the second, Duke didn’t score. Arkansas did — it scored seven unanswered, its largest run of the night, before senior captain Jeremy Roach (22 points) broke through on a drive and layup. From there, both offenses were rolling. Proctor and Filipowski made consecutive layups to cut the deficit to one. Trevon Brazile (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Roach traded threes. Chandler Lawson and Filipowski alternated easy paint points. The Razorbacks’ four minutes of glory, with potential to run away with a top-10 win, slipped away. It was a one-point game, once again.
Ellis got the first bucket of the second half, driving through Blue Devil defenders for the layup. The next time around, after Lawson blocked a Filipowski layup, the two collaborated — Ellis found Lawson under the rim for the easy dunk. The 37-32 lead was Arkansas’ biggest of the night thus far.
"Credit them, because they really keep you on the side and they do a good job pressuring the ball," said Scheyer of his opposition.
Freshman forward TJ Power, with his three 3-pointers against La Salle Friday evening, earned his first big-game minutes. The freshman entered the contest with 6:50 to play in the first half and drained his first 3-point shot just more than a minute-and-a-half later, responding in earnest to a Brazile layup that had tied the game just nine seconds earlier. He made his second with 1:01 to play in the first period off a Proctor steal and fast-break assist. That basket gave the Blue Devils a 32-30 lead, but Jeremiah Davenport had other plans, draining a long shot of his own after a Lawson offensive board extended the Razorbacks’ possession. It was Arkansas who led, if only by one, at the break.
The first 20 minutes may have been close, but they weren’t pretty from either side. Both teams struggled to find their grooves offensively, collectively shooting 9-for-26 from three in the first half and fouling 17 times. The latter mostly came from the Blue Devils, whose top two centers — Filipowski and Young — both had two fouls in less than 10 minutes of play.
Filipowski, in just the newest edition of this year’s Duke trend, got into early foul trouble. The 7-foot center committed two penalties in the first five minutes of play, sidelining him for much of the first half. Young performed solidly enough in relief, knocking down a free throw, grabbing a board and blocking a shot in his first four minutes. However, the big man also found himself in foul trouble with three calls of his own, leading to some early minutes for freshman forward Sean Stewart as the frontcourt bench grew shallow.
It was a rough offensive start for Duke, as Filipowski’s shot was blocked on its first possession before he turned it over on its second. Arkansas took advantage the second time around, with Davonte Davis finding space under the rim for the easy layup. Proctor responded shortly after with his first 3-pointer of the game.
Duke kicks off ACC play Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, taking on Georgia Tech.
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Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.