Despite 10 first-half turnovers and three fouls for senior forward Ryan Kelly the Duke Blue Devils trailed Louisville by just three points at the half, 35-32. With those two facts in mind the Blue Devils had to like their chances against the tournament’s top overall seed.
But after a solid start to the second half Duke found itself on the wrong end of a dominant performance, as their struggles on both ends of the floor would ultimately result in an 85-63 Louisville victory.
Duke shot 32% overall and 2-of-10 from three in the second half as they were outscored 50-31 by the Cardinals. With just two second-half turnovers one would assume that the Blue Devils would be in very good shape. But even with the lack of turnovers the ball ended up being funneled into positions where Duke could not hurt Louisville.
“What they do, and Rick’s done an amazing job with them, because they have depth and they keep coming at you, but they make you have multiple decision‑makers,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “You have to have more than one guy making a decision out on the court.
“And in switching their defenses and their quickness and their athleticism, you have to‑‑ it’s tough to run plays. You have to make plays against them.”
As for the other end of the floor, Louisville struggled to shoot from the perimeter (2-of-13 3PT) outside of a few mid-range jumpers from center Gorgui Dieng and a couple long twos from Peyton Siva.
But their ability to crack the Blue Devil defense and get into the paint proved to be the difference.
The Cardinals shot 59% from the field and 16-of-23 from the foul line in the second half, making 14 of their 19 shots from inside of the arc. That proved to be too much for Duke to overcome given their offensive struggles.
Duke will look to account for the graduation of Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee (not to mention assistant Chris Collins, who is the new head coach at Northwestern), and the addition of players such as Matt Jones, Jabari Parker and Semi Ojeleye will help and the same goes for Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood.
On this day however, Duke simply ran into a better team.