No. 5 Duke aims to keep rolling vs. Louisville

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke has made quite a bit of progress without its most productive player. That has put the Blue Devils right back among the elite.

With four games remaining in the regular season, Duke is up to No. 5 in the polls going into Wednesday night’s game against visiting Louisville at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The opportunities are spreading to other players as freshman forward Marvin Bagley III sits out with a knee sprain.

“That’s three wins without a kid that’s arguably as talented as there is in the country,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

In the meantime, roles have increased for Javin DeLaurier, Marquise Bolden and Jack White.

“That’s invaluable experience going forward,” Krzyzewski said of those players.

DeLaurier made his first career start in Sunday’s 66-57 victory at then-No. 11 Clemson. The sophomore forward grabbed 10 rebounds.

It’s those types of contributions that have encouraged the Blue Devils.

“This should propel us to be better and win more games like this,” freshman guard Trevon Duval said.

Bagley’s status remains uncertain for this week, though Krzyzewski said the ACC scoring and rebounding leader has been progressing.

“We’re going to make sure that he’s completely good before we get into March,” Krzyzewski said.

Freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. also has helped fill Bagley’s void as he has posted eight of his 14 double-doubles this season across the past 11 games.

Duke (22-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays three of its final home games at home. It’s the opposite for Louisville (18-9, 8-6).

“We’ve got a pretty difficult finishing stretch with three of our four remaining games on the road and our lone home game against the No. 1 team in the country in Virginia,” Louisville interim coach David Padgett said. “Our guys are up for the challenge.”

Louisville has lost four of its last six games.

“We’ve played a lot of very good teams so your defense isn’t going to be great night-in and night-out,” Padgett said. “But that’s been one of the common denominators in all that (recent stretch) is that we haven’t played very good defense. We just have to fix it … We have a tall task on Wednesday to try to do so.”

Duke is the ACC’s top offensive team, averaging 87.4 points per game. In Louisville’s last four losses, opponents have shot at least 45 percent from the field.

Louisville’s bench players contributed 35 points in Saturday night’s 93-76 loss to visiting North Carolina, marking the fourth consecutive game the Cardinals’ reserves tallied at least 30.

This will be Louisville’s third game of the month against a team with a Hall of Fame coach. The Cardinals lost at home to Syracuse and North Carolina.

“I’ve already faced two of the three Hall of Fame coaches in the league and neither one of those games has gone very well,” Padgett said.

If Rick Pitino hadn’t been dismissed in the fall, this would have been the first of three consecutive visitors to Duke with Hall of Fame coaches. Instead, former Duke point guard Greg Paulus, who was hired after Padgett was elevated to his role, will be on the Louisville bench as an assistant coach.