5 observations from No. 10 Duke men's basketball's first half against Louisville

Jeremy Roach (eight first-half points) tracks his shot Wednesday evening against Louisville.
Jeremy Roach (eight first-half points) tracks his shot Wednesday evening against Louisville.

Back in Durham after a lengthy road trip, No. 10 Duke used a strong first-half defensive effort Wednesday evening to grab the lead over visiting Louisville at the break. Twenty minutes remain inside Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Blue Devils look to preserve a 36-23 lead:

Injury report

Much has been made of the injury status of Kyle Filipowski after Saturday’s court-storming fracas at Wake Forest left him nursing his right knee postgame. Head coach Jon Scheyer was unsure whether Filipowski would suit up as recently as Monday morning, but the 7-foot sophomore featured in the starting lineup Wednesday nonetheless. That makes it a remarkably durable run of 63 straight games and 63 straight starts for Filipowski to begin his college career. The first half was by no means a dominant one for Filipowski (five points, four turnovers), but he looked plenty comfortable moving up and down the floor, even managing a highlight in transition by threading the needle to a surging Mark Mitchell.

On the flip side, the Blue Devils are down a key player against the Cardinals in Caleb Foster. The freshman guard, who assumed Tyrese Proctor’s spot in the first five after the elder player entered concussion protocol following a Feb. 12 clash with the Demon Deacons, was making his third-consecutive start Saturday when he quietly exited the second half with a lower-leg injury. With Foster sidelined Wednesday, Proctor returned to the starting backcourt and freshman forwards Sean Stewart (five points, four minutes) and TJ Power (zero points, six minutes) made early entrances off the bench. 

Clean slate

In a pair of odd instances at North Carolina and the week after against Boston College, the Blue Devils managed to go the first half without a free throw. For a while Wednesday evening, it seemed as if Louisville might do the same: The Cardinals finally got to the charity stripe with 10:28 to go, but sophomore guard Tre White missed a pair of technical free throws to keep the visitors scoreless in the category. Louisville did make some progress toward the end of the half but still wound up 4-of-9 from the free-throw line. Duke struggled to take advantage, though, shooting just 6-of-11.

Proctor play

When these two teams squared off in January, Proctor had perhaps his finest outing of the season. In 35 minutes off the bench, the Australia native netted a season-high 24 points as the Blue Devils survived an early exit by senior guard Jeremy Roach and cruised to an 83-69 win on the road.

Back in the starting lineup Wednesday, Proctor has not set off any fireworks just yet. Instead, the sophomore’s impact was felt mainly on the defensive end — Louisville leading scorer Skyy Clark had two points — as Roach and freshman guard Jared McCain took the reins on offense. In total, Proctor has two points and a team-high four assists heading to the locker room.


It feels as if an eternity passed between Duke’s last home game and this one. The Blue Devils made a pair of successful trips to Florida (at Florida State and Miami) before closing out their three-game road trip with a loss Saturday at Wake Forest, but now get to play three of their final four regular-season games — including the March 9 finale against North Carolina — within the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor.

Home-court advantage comes with an added boost against the Cardinals, who are 1-9 on the road this season and have not won away from the KFC Yum! Center since Jan. 10. That road disadvantage showed up in the box score, with Louisville struggling from the field (9-of-31) and especially from beyond the arc (1-of-11). The Cardinals’ first and only lead of the half came on White’s first-possession 3-point make, but it was a whole lot of cold for head coach Kenny Payne’s squad the rest of the way. Duke, meanwhile, shot a scorching 54.2% while hitting 4-of-8 triples.

Player of the half: Jeremy Roach

Despite a strong defensive showing throughout the first frame, the Blue Devils were unable to match it with offense for the better part of the first half. With eight minutes and change left before the changeover, Duke’s lead was just 17-13; it seemed as if the defensive effort might be for nought. 

Enter Roach, who promptly hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 23-13 in a flash. He was the Blue Devils’ engine on offense in a first half with little of it, scoring eight points to tie for the team lead. McCain and Mitchell were right alongside their senior captain, with the duo both also scoring eight. Through 20 minutes, it is safe to say that all three of Roach, McCain and Proctor have given Duke enough strong backcourt play to account for Foster’s absence.

Jonathan Levitan

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


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