PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — After playing three games in three days Duke found the energy to spur the No. 5 Blue Devils to a 76-71 victory over No. 2 Louisville to win the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Duke has now won 23 straight regular season tournament games, a streak that dates back to 2006.
Quinn Cook, who ran Dukes offense to perfection on Paradise Island, was named tournament MVP. Mason Plumlee was also named to the all-tournament team.
Everyone talks about a kid getting confidence, but its when a team gets confidence in a point guard that you take off, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. They have great confidence in Quinn. Hes earned it. The first meeting of Duke and Louisville since the 1986 National Title game didnt disappoint. With the score tied at 61-61, Seth Curry hit a 3-point shot right in front of the Duke bench to put the Blue Devils back ahead 64-61 with 4:26 remaining. Despite a nagging right shin injury, Curry was able to play over 30 minutes for the third consecutive day.
"To me, that was the biggest play of the game," Krzyzewski said of Curry's shot. "We don't even come close to winning this without Seth." After Lousivilles Montrezl Harrell closed the deficit to one off of an offensive rebounda consistent source of points for the CardinalsRyan Kelly blocked a Kevin Ware shot. Tyler Thornton collected the loose ball and threw it ahead to Plumlee, who finished with a one-handed dunk to put Duke ahead 66-63 with 3:03 left on the clock. Kelly also grabbed the rebound after Russ Smith missed his second free throw after a timeout on the floor. Curry hit two free throws with 1:37 remaining to put Duke ahead 68-64. After Russ Smith hit two free throws, Quinn Cook chased down a long inbounds pass to put Duke ahead 70-66. Cook also hit a runner from the free throw line with 26 seconds remaining in the game to put Duke ahead 72-67. Peyton Siva drove the lane with 15.3 seconds remaining to cut Dukes lead to 72-69. Cook hit all four of his ensuing free throws, and Duke's 76-71 lead held for the final 6.7 seconds.
Duke went 23-for-27 from the free throw line, an 85.2 percent conversion rate. Its the fourth game in a row that Duke has hit at least 80 percent of their free throws. Louisville went only 64.3 percent from the line.
The key to beating Duke is that you have to keep them off the line, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. We missed our free throws and they made their free throws. Sometimes it really comes down to simple things.
Duke (6-0) now has two wins over top-5 teams, both from the state of Kentucky. Each team went on a second-half run to keep the games result in doubt until the final minute. With Louisville (5-1) trailing by just four with 16:53 remaining, Rasheed Sulaimon made up for a turnover by running behind the Cardinals press and emphatically slamming home the ball. On the ensuing possession, Sulaimon stripped Siva of the ball, and Kelly tipped in an offensive rebound to put Duke up 45-37. That series of plays spurred an 11-4 Duke run that was capped by Kelly drawing contact on an off-balanced 3-point attempt. Kelly hit two of his three free throws, and Duke built the games first double-digit lead at 52-41 with 14:21 left in the game. Louisville went on an 11-2 run of its own that tied the game at 56-56. Kelly hit two free throws, and Siva was called for a travel. Siva hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with eight minutes remaining to put Louisville up 59-58. It was the Cardinals first lead since they were up 4-3 early in the game.
Duke starters all contributed evenly on offense: Plumlee led with 16 points, Cook had 15, and Sulaimon, Kelly and Curry each contributed 14 apiece.
"The main thing was we responded to the pressure of the moment," Krzyzewski said. "When kids respond to the pressure of the moment, its a beautiful thing to watch."