‘We have to adjust’: Roach, Mitchell star for No. 10 Duke men’s basketball against Louisville in preview of life without Foster

Kyle Filipowski stands tall to deter a shot during Duke's win against Louisville.
Kyle Filipowski stands tall to deter a shot during Duke's win against Louisville.

For the better part of a week now, Kyle Filipowski has been the center of attention for everybody, everywhere. The chaos that followed Saturday’s Blue Devil loss at Wake Forest, in which Filipowski was caught in a frenzy of court-storming fans, has ignited the latest heated debate over what fans should — and should not — do. Wherever you look, no matter what channel you turn on, the court-storming question is in your face. 

“What happened on Saturday was all over social media,” sophomore forward Mark Mitchell jested Wednesday. “It was on the world news.”

But if you were to look down toward Filipowski’s feet as the star sophomore fielded questions in front of his locker following Wednesday night’s 84-59 dismantling of Louisville at Cameron Indoor Stadium, you would have seen a basketball — and not just any basketball. This one, which commemorates his 1,000-point milestone in Saturday’s loss, serves as the latest reminder of all Filipowski has already accomplished in his short time in Durham.

“He’s already scored over 1,000 points, and he’s done some amazing things,” head coach Jon Scheyer said of Filipowski after Wednesday’s win. “He is a guy that is not caught up in stats. And when you have a guy who's your leading scorer and has been really the number one guy in the scouting report for two years, where he's just all about winning, it’s contagious.”

It was contagious Wednesday night, then, as Filipowski’s commendable nine points and 10 rebounds played second fiddle to a pair of excellent performances by senior guard Jeremy Roach and Mitchell in No. 10 Duke's cruise-control defeat of the Cardinals. The two combined to score 36 points while missing just six shots, helping the Blue Devils to easily handle an outmatched opponent and overcome the absence of key freshman Caleb Foster.

Foster, who exited the second half at Wake Forest in what had been his third-straight start, was held out of Wednesday’s win with a lower-leg injury and could be seen wearing a walking boot while using a kick-scooter. The emerging guard is set to miss an unknown amount of time as the postseason nears.

“Unfortunately for us, we have to adjust without Caleb,” Scheyer said. “My heart breaks for him that he couldn't play today. He’s had such a good year and he impacts winning in so many ways, besides just the box score and just the stats. We’re going to be without him for some time. I do not know what that time is, but we have to adjust, we have to step up, just like we’ve had to do throughout the year with different injuries.”

With Foster unavailable, Tyrese Proctor stepped back into the starting lineup against the Cardinals. The sophomore guard was stuck in concussion protocol for his team’s Feb. 17 win at Florida State and had come off the bench in the two games since. And while he did not need to match his 24-point outburst from Duke’s January win at Louisville, he did his part in Wednesday’s blowout. With the Blue Devils coughing up 10 turnovers before halftime and 14 overall, Proctor’s combination of sure-handedness (one turnover) and keen passing (seven assists) stood out.

Freshman guard Jared McCain hit four threes and had 14 points, but it was Roach who truly steered the backcourt in Foster’s absence. In a key first-half sequence, the senior captain woke up the Blue Devil offense with 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, giving Duke its first double-digit lead and laying the groundwork for the blowout to follow.

In his four years, the always-steady Roach has often seemed to morph into the player Duke needs him to be at just the right time. He stepped up on the road to the Final Four in 2022 and in the ACC tournament a season ago; this year, he has transformed himself into one of the game’s best 3-point shooters. After hitting 3-of-4 attempts Wednesday, he is shooting an outrageous 48% from deep this season.

“He’s about winning,” Scheyer said of Roach. “Tonight, he gets 19 points on 11 shots. He could have had 30 tonight, I don’t think any of you guys would disagree with me. He just played within himself, he played both sides of the ball.”

Filipowski echoed Scheyer’s sentiment, lauding Roach’s play Wednesday and throughout his senior season.

“It’s incredible,” Filipowski said. “Especially playing with him last year and just seeing the growth from him from junior to senior year. … He’s really playing for us. He’s playing for our teammates out there on the court. And that’s exactly the type of person, player we need out of Jeremy, especially if we want to take this all the way to the Final Four.”

The other standout in Duke’s dominant win was Mitchell, who turned in another high-level outing for the Blue Devils against Louisville with 17 points and made his only 3-point attempt of the contest. He otherwise made his living around the rim, showing off the aggressive style that has been a trademark of his resurgence in ACC play.

Since starting the year 1-of-22 from beyond the arc, Mitchell has — like Roach — rounded into form with an efficient 8-of-14 mark since. The 3-point shot has never been a strength for the defensive-minded Mitchell — he made just 19 in his freshman season — but has bolstered his scoring arsenal and taken a piece of the scoring burden off of Filipowski’s shoulders in the frontcourt.

“I don’t know that he gets the credit that he probably should, nationally,” Scheyer said. “Or even in our league. When you talk about key guys, I think anybody would love to have Mark Mitchell on their team.”

In general, the frontcourt is top of mind for Scheyer as he aims to guide Duke through Foster’s untimely absence. Both freshman forwards on the roster saw increased run Wednesday, as Sean Stewart racked up nine points and nine rebounds in 11 minutes and TJ Power went 1-of-4 from 3-point range in 15 minutes.

Junior guard Jaylen Blakes, on the other hand, played just three minutes late in the second half, with Scheyer eschewing a backcourt replacement for Foster in favor of a “go big” approach.

“You can’t look at the team the same way without Caleb,” Scheyer said of the decision to emphasize the frontcourt. “Without any of those guards.”

Entering Wednesday, Filipowski’s injury status was also unknown. He appeared to injure his knee in the court-storming at Wake Forest but told reporters Wednesday night that he felt healthy in the 24 hours leading up to the Louisville matchup. The result was Filipowski’s 63rd-consecutive start to begin his Blue Devil career.

In a mostly constrained night at Cameron Indoor, walk-on senior guard Spencer Hubbard brought the house down with a 3-pointer in the final minute, the first of his career.

Duke returns to action at 6 p.m. Saturday, when it welcomes Virginia to Durham. A win keeps the Blue Devils alive in the race for the ACC title with rival North Carolina, which comes to town March 9 for the regular-season finale.

Jonathan Levitan

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


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