No. 10 Duke men's basketball brushes aside Louisville, re-enters win column to keep pressure on ACC summit

Sean Stewart soars above the Louisville frontcourt for a dunk in the first half of Wednesday night's game.
Sean Stewart soars above the Louisville frontcourt for a dunk in the first half of Wednesday night's game.

It’s how the Cards fall, they say.

Back at Cameron Indoor Stadium after a three-game road slate and looking to rebound from a hard-fought loss at Wake Forest over the weekend, No. 10 Duke put Louisville in its pocket Wednesday night to the tune of a 84-59 win. The victory keeps the pressure on North Carolina — currently one win atop the Blue Devils in the ACC standings — ahead of a potentially make-or-break final stretch of the regular season that features games at N.C. State and against Virginia and the Tar Heels at home.

"We need to move on quickly and get ready for a really tough game on Saturday, but I'm proud of the team responding from Saturday and to get this win," head coach Jon Scheyer said postgame.

The second half got off to a quick start for Duke (22-6, 13-4 in the ACC), which built on its 13-point halftime lead with a rapid one-two punch of buckets from Mark Mitchell and Jared McCain. Louisville (8-20, 3-14) played with some zip in response but could hardly keep pace, trailing steadily further behind as the Blue Devils continued to trade two buckets for one.

Mitchell, whose winter renaissance just doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon, was key to building that advantage. The Kansas City, Kan., native harassed the Cardinals all night long in the post, using the attention paid to Kyle Filipowski on defense to make space for himself. This also meant that he got to the line more than any other Duke player, even if his 2-for-5 conversion rate wasn’t anything to write home about. That was pennies in comparison to his 17 points on a 70% shooting rate from the floor, though. 

Senior guard Jeremy Roach (19 points) may not be the flashiest name on Duke’s team sheet, but he may have been its most important against the Cardinals. The Leesburg, Va., native was typically excellent throughout Wednesday night’s game, sinking two fast step-back threes to extend the Blue Devil lead into double digits midway through the first half. McCain then connected on his own attempt from deep before falling backward onto the floor.

Roach stared McCain down, grinned, and clapped his hands. The Blue Devils were in control.

"We try to expand the lead as much as we can," Roach said. "And we we know we can hot at any point. So it's always just fun to play like that, sharing the ball, guys hitting threes ... and we're just having a good time." 

"He could have had 30 tonight," Scheyer said of Roach. "He just played within himself. He played both sides of the ball. And I think the test of a Duke player who's been through a lot of moments, he plays his best when the moments the biggest. And he's not afraid of anything."

Despite the eventually comfortable rhythm the game settled into, Duke struggled to keep hold of the ball throughout the night — a vice that would have cost it had Louisville shot the ball more efficiently. By the close of the opening frame, the Blue Devils had surrendered the ball 10 times, four of those courtesy of Filipowski, who made the starting lineup after being injured in a court-storming after Duke’s loss to the Demon Deacons.

The Blue Devils may have entered the game as 20-point favorites, but it took a minute for them to play like it. Fortunately for Duke, Louisville couldn’t get rolling either, with both teams putting up a combined nine points by the first media timeout. The Blue Devil defense put on a clinic early in the first half, holding the Cardinals to a five-minute scoring drought and just one make in their first eight shots. When those shots did come, they were usually on desperate heaves as the buzzer sounded — or as the student section tried to convince Louisville players that it was about to.

The Cardinals’ case wasn’t made any easier by the fact that they couldn’t seem to buy a shot from deep, no matter how many times they tried. After Tre White nailed a quick three to grab Louisville’s first and only lead of the night — 3-2 — his team missed on its next 13 attempts from downtown, punctuating a icy first half in which the Cardinals shot just 29% overall.

The injection of freshman forward Sean Stewart for Mitchell midway through the half added a bit of dynamism into a frontcourt which struggled to take control against Louisville’s bigs. Stewart made his impact known immediately, taking a feed from Tyrese Proctor to the rack for a ferocious slam. He energized the crowd with a similar play later in the half, adding to an already effective cameo.

"The freshmen, we're so close so anytime I see Sean doing well, it just warms my heart," McCain said. "He almost had a double-double so for him to do well, it's like, I love seeing it. It literally makes makes my day seeing my boys shine and get in there and do well."

Stewart saw some more minutes in the second frame as Duke’s lead grew — valuable floor-time for a player that has often been the odd-man-out in Scheyer’s preferred seven-man rotation (Wednesday’s starters plus Caleb Foster and Ryan Young). The extra time for Stewart coincided with some solid play by fellow freshman TJ Power, who has seen his minutes limited in much the same way. By the final buzzer, the two freshmen had combined for 12 points, eight boards, two crowd-popping dunks by Stewart and a feel-good three by Power. Senior walk-on Spencer Hubbard added a trey of his own — his first ever — as well, sending Cameron Indoor into rapture.

Now back in the win column, Duke looks to make it two in two as a Saturday evening matchup with Virginia looms.


Andrew Long profile
Andrew Long | Sports Editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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