Duke men's basketball's well-rounded, ruthless final minutes sent Vermont home, but it needs consistency to go far

<p>Kyle Filipowski applauds the Blue Devil fans as he heads off the court.</p>

Kyle Filipowski applauds the Blue Devil fans as he heads off the court.

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Seven minutes and 26 seconds were left on the clock when Catamount guard Shamir Bogues drained a triple. The fans decked out in green and gold erupted with a joyous fervor as the scoreboard added three ticks to Vermont’s tally. The junior pulled his team within six of the Blue Devils, and the Barclays Center was rocking in all the wrong ways for Duke. Like they had done all game, the Catamounts were breathing down the Blue Devils’ necks.

Until that moment, Duke seemed to lack that spark, a willingness to dig as deep as humanly possible to win. Yet something about that Bogues three lit a fire underneath the Blue Devil bench. Finally, after nearly 33 minutes of play, Duke came alive.

“I thought our response was what I’m really proud of,” said head coach Jon Scheyer. “[We] stepped up and made big shots, big rebounds.”

It was sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor who was lit ablaze first. After a scrum resulted in Nick Fiorillo committing a loose ball foul, the Sydney native found himself behind the arc after teammate Jared McCain missed his shot attempt. Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski got the rebound, and eventually the ball made its way into Proctor’s hands. He connected on the second-chance triple, flawlessly pulling up for the jumper and widening his team’s lead to 53-44.

“I have my teammates … on the bench yelling the whole game, just keep shooting, keep shooting. So you know, I get confident from them,” Proctor said.

And get confident he did. To cap off his 13-point night, he got another second-chance look three minutes later. Once again demonstrating the team’s dominance on the offensive glass, sophomore forward Mark Mitchell garnered a rebound when senior Jeremy Roach failed to make his driving layup. When the ball finally found its way into Proctor’s hands, he was tightly guarded by a Catamount. 

After battling his defender and continuously trying to find a path inside with the shot clock winding down, the guard created just enough separation for himself to step back for a near-impossible jumper. The moment the net swished, the stadium erupted as flashes of the Proctor of old seemed to be glimmering through.

The sophomore wasn’t the only one who seemed to show up in the twilight of the game. Roach had several big moments too, racking up six of his 14 points in the final seven minutes of the contest. Showcasing his natural ability to perform when his team needs him most, the Leesburg, Va., native executed a driving layup out of a Duke time out with a little less than five minutes left, evading several defenders in the process. His four free throws down the stretch while remaining calm under pressure cemented his dynamic veteran performance.

“I’m a senior. I’ve been through every single moment of college you can even imagine,” Roach said. “Being down five with four minutes left, being up two with a minute left … any situation, I’ve been in it.”

While the scoring — highlighted by an 8-0 run to close the game — was certainly admirable, it was the things outside of points that truly made the difference. The team’s defense was equally stringent down the stretch, preventing Vermont from scoring in the final 4:42 of the game as it went 2-of-11 from the floor. The Blue Devils dominated the defensive glass, tallying seven boards after Proctor’s three to close out the game. 

Yet it was the heroics of one individual that really sealed the deal — Filipowski. The 7-foot center had two crucial blocks as the game drew to a close that drove Duke toward victory. Along with his 12 rebounds, the Wilbraham and Monson product's impact was felt not in the scoring column as it usually is, but in the difference he made in other areas.

“I did what I needed to do … in order to get this win,” Filipowski said.

The Westtown, N.Y., native’s statement sums up a mentality that has seemingly been missing from the Blue Devils in the past few weeks — a gritty desire to win by whatever means necessary. In response to losses against North Carolina and N.C. State, the gutsy performances of Proctor, Roach, Filipowski and others Friday night demonstrated that this team is capable of stringing together a complete team performance when it matters.

Regardless of the seven minutes and change where Duke was electric to close the game, one question still remains. Against the Catamounts, the Blue Devils proved they have the pieces necessary for greatness. However, a spurt of excellence is not enough to make a deep run in March against a top-notch opponent. To cement itself as a contender, Duke doesn’t need seven minutes of lights-out play — it needs 40.

Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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