“I don’t coach losers.”
“I coach winners.”
That is was Mike Krzyzewski told his team in the huddle as they were in the middle of getting trucked on Tuesday night in Louisville, and whether it was a motivational ploy, a threat or simply a septuagenarian Army grad letting off some steam, it worked.
Cam Reddish scored 16 of his 22 points in the final 9:07 and Zion Williamson scored 13 of his 27 points in final 7:40 as No. 2 Duke erased a 23 point second half deficit in the blink of an eye to stun No. 16 Louisville, 71-69, in the Yum! Center on Tuesday night. Duke outscored Louisville 35-10 over the final 9:07 as the Cardinals turned the ball over nine times and shot just 2-for-11 from the floor. It was the biggest second half comeback of Mike Krzyzewski’s career.
Williamson, who finished with 27 points and 12 boards, played the final 12 minutes of the game with four fouls. Reddish, who missed his first five threes of the game, hit four during the run and capped off the game with a pair of free throws with 14.9 seconds left for the win.
The game did not end without controversy, however.
On Duke’s final possession of the game, Reddish came off of a dribble handoff, drove through three defenders and barreled into Ryan McMahon in what was the easy charge call of the season. The problem? McMahon’s left heel was on the charge circle, meaning that the officials were able to go to the monitor, overturn the call and give Reddish a pair of free throws.
The question here becomes just how much credit we should give Duke for making the comeback and how much blame we need to throw at Louisville for choking away that lead, and the answer is simple: It’s all of the above.
Duke finally started playing hard midway through the second half. For the first 30 minutes of that game, it looked like they were playing in quicksand, which is something that this team has had a tendency to do. When their shots aren’t going down and they’re not getting out in transition, they can get into a funk. It happened in the first half against Boston College. It happened in the first half against Georgia Tech. It happened in the second half when they lost to Syracuse. Louisville is a Pack-Line team, they forced Duke out of the paint and into jumpers and the Blue Devils weren’t making them. At the other end of the floor, they were carving Duke up with their high ball-screen offense.
It was perfection.
Until Duke brought Jordan Goldwire on the floor and allowed him and Tre Jones to get out and pressure Louisville’s guards. One turnover led to another, which led to some serious #lemonbooty, and once Duke sniffed out the fact that no one on Louisville actually wanted to have the ball in their hands, it was over.
Duke had to make the plays — and, in Reddish’s case, the shots — that it did, and they deserve credit for that, but Louisville gifted them that win on a platter.
And at the end of the day, Coach K was right.
He coaches winners.