BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Buckle up for Duke-North Carolina Part III.
With Duke’s 81-77 exciting comeback win over No. 10 Louisville Thursday at Barclays Center, basketball fans will get to witness a third meeting between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels on Friday night in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament.
“So that was a quarterfinal game; holy mackerel,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“Wow, that was a big-time game. We’re so pleased and proud of the win because we beat a heck of a team and a team that could win it all really. We just made some shots and played our hearts out. They played their hearts out. We hit a couple more shots than them.”
Down by double digits in the second half, and unable to stop the Cardinals (24-7) inside, the Blue Devils (24-8) switched to a 2-3 zone defense, which completely changed an already exciting game.
The zone proved effective in keeping Louisville out of the paint, and sparked a Duke run that eventually gave the Blue Devils a 65-64 lead with 8:06 remaining.
“Well, any port in a storm, so to speak,” Krzyzewski said of the switch to the zone.
“We could not stop them in transition in man. They come down so hard… And they missed some shots (after the change). It’s not like we played a great zone, but it changed a little the tempo.”
Up until the defensive change, the Cardinals dominated the paint, especially in the first half when 28 of Louisville’s 37 points came in the paint.
For the second-straight game, Duke benefited from great performances from a trio of players.
Freshman Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 25 points, and Luke Kennard recorded a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds).
Just as impressive was Grayson Allen (18 points, four rebounds), who bounced back from a scoreless game against Clemson in which he picked up a technical foul.
“I’ve had a lot of confidence,” Allen said.
“It’s big for a game like this because I was happy I was able to contribute to the team in what we did. We really needed a spark off the bench, and I didn’t think I did a good job of that in the first game (Clemson). So, I thought I could be better than that.”
The Cards outscored the Blue Devils 46 to 28 in the paint for the entire game.
Louisville forward Deng Adel, who did much of the inside damage, scored 21 points and grabbed five boards.
Quentin Snider had 15 points, three rebounds and five assists for the Cards.
Louisville had plenty of opportunities down the stretch, but ultimately shot itself in the foot at the free-throw line, making just 15 of its 26 attempts from the charity stripe.
Duke and North Carolina will meet for the 21st time in the ACC Tournament Friday at 7 p.m. with a spot in the championship game on the line.