And one: Proctor's career night, Mitchell's return power Duke men's basketball in win against Louisville

Sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor scored a career-high 24 points against Louisville Tuesday.
Sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor scored a career-high 24 points against Louisville Tuesday.

After each Duke men’s basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The Blue Devils earned a bounce-back 83-69 win against Louisville Tuesday, and the Blue Zone is here to break down the contest:

One player: Tyrese Proctor

Tuesday was nothing short of a career outing for the point guard. At numerous junctures where Duke could not seem to find nylon, it was Proctor who stepped up. The Aussie shot his way to a career-high 24 points on an impressive 9-of-16 from the floor, the brunt of which came from the perimeter as he shot 4-of-10 from deep. Proctor’s scoring was coupled with his usual work as a facilitator as he dished out four assists.

Though it was the recovery of Jeremy Roach and Mark Mitchell that headlined this game, Proctor has not been without his own bounce back from injury this season. A left ankle sprain during the Blue Devils’ road trip to Atlanta saw the 6-foot-5 floor general miss the better part of December. During this stretch, Caleb Foster started at the one and took over the primary ball-handling role that Proctor occupied since Jon Scheyer’s midseason adjustments last year. As Duke was riding a convincing win streak when Proctor made his recovery, Scheyer elected to have him come off the bench for his first four games back. His scoring was particularly limited in these matchups — he made double figures only once against Syracuse with 14 — as the NBA Global Academy product sought to work back his agility and athleticism. 

Proctor came off the bench once again against Louisville as Scheyer worked back towards the scheme that had found the Blue Devils success during his absence. This time, though, he was fundamentally different. The x-factor in Proctor’s game? Confidence. Confidence saw the point guard deep in his bag, showing off flashy handles and a certain level of conviction in his own shot that had been missing since his performance against Tennessee in last season’s NCAA tournament second-round contest. When Proctor plays with the mentality that he did Tuesday night, Duke’s ceiling is fundamentally elevated by the presence of a crafty and versatile bucket-getter.

One word: Momentum

The Blue Devils’ struggles have been largely rooted in persistent vulnerability to their opponent’s momentum. This flaw was more than evident in their loss to Pittsburgh in Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the squad was seemingly unable to get a stop in the final minutes and ice the Panthers’ knockdown perimeter shooting. They, in turn, lost control of the game’s pace and their own attitudes. On Tuesday, the problem seemed to follow them to the KFC Yum! Center. Duke’s lead, once as great as 18, was culled by Louisville capitalizing on momentum. The Cardinals closed out the first half by carving out six made field goals on seven attempts and kept rolling into the second, opening it on an 8-2 run. This shift saw Louisville and its home crowd control the game, leaving the Blue Devils to fight through the remainder of the clock without much safety cushion. 

The power of momentum, however, goes both ways. With 7:08 remaining in the second half, sophomore Tyrese Proctor drilled a stepback three in the face of the Cardinals’ Mike James to put Duke up eight. The Louisville faithful were silenced, and the Blue Devils were once again in the driver’s seat. They outscored the Cardinals 15-9 the rest of the way to land at a comfortable 14-point win.

One stat: Mark Mitchell 8-of-11 from the floor

While Proctor’s takeover might have earned him player of the game honors, Mitchell’s return was nothing short of excellent. Headlined by tremendous efficiency, the 6-foot-9 forward looked to be back in full form after missing the previous two contests. He paired his 8-of-11 shooting with a 4-for-5 night from the charity stripe, good for 20 points overall. Mitchell’s volume and efficiency in the paint — he was responsible for 35.3% of the team’s scoring in that area — are precisely what the Blue Devils need to establish a front court presence. Continuing to solidify himself as a consistent threat around the rim will give the Kansas City native gravity that opens up opportunities for both his front court complement in Kyle Filipowski and Duke’s wealth of shooters around the arc. 


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