No. 18 Louisville stages furious second-half rally, beats No. 20 Duke
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville threw defense, bodies and even elbows at No. 20 Duke, a collective effort that left the 18th-ranked Cardinals tired and sore.
Not to mention satisfied, after a hard-fought 71-64 victory the Cardinals won’t forget anytime soon.
Damion Lee scored 24 points, including three 3-pointers during a furious second-half rally from a 13-point deficit, to the push the Cardinals past Duke on Saturday in a win maybe more satisfying than its upset of then-No. 2 North Carolina on Feb. 1.
At a loss to counter the Blue Devils and their potent outside game, Louisville turned up the aggression on both ends to wear them down and seize the outcome.
It just took time.
Trailing 44-31 with 17:10 remaining, Louisville battled back and used an 8-0 run with consecutive 3s by Lee and a slam by Jaylen Johnson after Chinanu Onuaku stole an inbounds pass for a 58-55 lead. Lee added another long-range shot and Johnson made a jumper to make it 63-57.
"Coach (Rick Pitino) just kept preaching to us in the huddle continue to get stops," said Lee, who made 8 of 17 from the field despite dislocating his left (non-shooting) pinkie during pregame warmups. "I think that once we came from the zone and started pressing and going man-to-man (and) full court, we took their legs out, wore them down. Everything else just took care of itself."
Then came a final game-changing sequence for the Cardinals (21-6, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who are ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA violations.
Officials then whistled Duke guard Grayson Allen for charging — his fifth foul — and assessed him a subsequent technical foul for arguing the call to end his day after scoring a game-high 29 points for the Blue Devils (20-7, 9-5), who had beaten a ranked team in their last three games.
"I just let out my emotions in a way that I shouldn’t have," said Allen, who had 19 points in the first half. "In that kind of situation, I have to control (myself)."
That sequence effectively left the depleted Blue Devils — who already played without injured guard Matt Jones (ankle) and forward Amile Jefferson (foot) — with five players for much of the final 3:55 including guard Derryck Thornton, who had left the game with an injured right shoulder earlier in the half.
Duke eventually went to reserve Nick Pagliuca after Luke Kennard fouled out with 21 seconds left. Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski even picked up a technical foul.
"The intensity and the physicality of the game did not lend itself to us," Krzyzewski said. "With injuries and foul trouble, not a good combination for us. Our kids fought their hearts out."
Lee and Johnson combined for six free throws in the final minutes to close out an emotional victory for Louisville, which avenged a loss 12 days ago at Duke.
Deng Adel added 12 points, Chinanu Onuaku had 10 with 11 rebounds and Johnson six despite playing with four fouls, including a technical for elbowing Grayson in a loose-ball scrum, in a game that was very physical in the second half.
In the end, Louisville ended Duke’s five-game winning streak by holding the Blue Devils to 8-of-21 shooting in the second half. The Cardinals meanwhile controlled the paint 36-22 and forced 18 turnovers overall, including 10 by Duke forward Brandon Ingram.
Most satisfying to Pitino was putting it together just as the Cardinals seemed on the verge of losing control.
"We just wanted to keep applying the heat and wait for our run," he said.
Duke: The Blue Devils’ nine 3-pointers on 20 attempts matched their league-leading averages overall and ACC play. … Thornton returned from the shoulder injury to score seven points.
Louisville: Onuanku added four blocks for the Cardinals. …. Ray Spalding had eight points and three rebounds for Louisville, which edged Duke 31-29 on the boards.
Duke: Hosts Florida State on Thursday.
Louisville: Visits Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
There was a throwback vibe all around, as the Cardinals wore cream-colored 1980s-era retro uniforms and the 1986 NCAA championship team was recognized at halftime. Though Final Four Most Outstanding Player Pervis Ellison and teammate Kenny Payne — now an assistant coach at rival Kentucky — weren’t present, notables such as Milt Wagner, Herbert Crook and Tony Kimbro were
Not to mention Hall of Fame Louisville coach Denny Crum, who reminded the crowd that while some suggested those Cardinals that beat Duke 72-69 in Dallas weren’t college basketball’s best team, "the best team on this night won the championship."