Utah overcame foul trouble and a limited second half from star sophomore center Jakob Poeltl as the Runnin’ Utes upset No. 7 Duke, 77-75, on Saturday in Madison Square Garden.
At the end of a wild game, Luke Kennard made a four-point play with under 10 seconds left and Duke trailing by six. Utah turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play with 6.7 seconds left, but Brandon Ingram missed the game-tying look just outside of the restricted area as Utah’s Kyle Kuzma recovered the defensive rebound and was fouled.
Poeltl quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls in the second half and didn’t score for over 20 minutes of game action before turning it on at the end of the game for Utah. The sophomore had multiple blocks at the rim, finished plays with rebounds and also attacked Duke senior center Marshall Plumlee on the offensive end — who was also battling foul problems.
Finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds, Poeltl was a huge boost for Utah late, as they were carried for much of the second half by Kuzma. The sophomore forward scored 13 consecutive points for Utah during one stretch and he finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, taking advantage of Duke using smaller lineups when Plumlee wasn’t on the floor.
Duke struggled to adapt without senior forward Amile Jefferson, who is sitting out with a fractured foot. The Blue Devils used various zone looks in the first half and only slowed down Utah when Poeltl was on the bench in foul trouble. Sophomore guard Grayson Allen was also struggling with flu-like symptoms and only finished 3-for-17 from the floor for seven points for the Blue Devils.
Duke (9-2) struggled overall as a team, shooting 29 percent (23-for-77) from the field and 28 percent (8-for-28) from 3-point range. Freshman guard Luke Kennard paced Duke with 24 points — 10 of which came in overtime — while Matt Jones added 18 points. Freshman Brandon Ingram tallied 15 points for Duke.
Utah (9-2) also had a solid outing from guard Lorenzo Bonham, who finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Without Jefferson, Utah outrebounded Duke 56-38 on the afternoon. Utah avenged a loss against Duke in last season’s Sweet 16 as they beat the Blue Devils for the first time since 1970.
This is a great win for Utah, who picks up a signature victory and showed that it could hang with elite teams without Poeltl on the floor for the whole game. Kuzma showed that he’s a matchup problem for plenty of teams and Bonham was also steady at both ends of the floor.
With only a limited rotation without Jefferson, Duke is still trying to figure out lineups — especially if Plumlee is battling foul trouble. Freshman center Chase Jeter still isn’t ready for major minutes and Brandon Ingram doesn’t help enough as a rebounder if he plays the four. It’ll be a trial-and-error process for Duke with some of these smaller lineups, but it’s encouraging that Kennard stepped up and attacked the way that he did.