Down 23 points with less than 10 minutes to play at No. 16 Louisville Tuesday night, No. 2 Duke unleashed a furious comeback to stun the Cardinals 71-69 in ACC basketball at the KFC Yum! Center.
Cam Reddish hit two free throws with 14.9 seconds left capping a game-ending 7-0 run for the Blue Devils (22-2, 10-1 ACC) to extend their winning streak to eight games.
Zion Williamson led Duke with 27 points and 12 rebounds despite playing the final 12:14 of the game with four fouls. Reddish had 22 points. RJ Barrett scored 13 points for Duke.
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Louisville (17-8, 8-4) led 59-36 with 9:13 to play but hit only two field goals the rest of the game after the Blue Devils switched to a zone defense in the half court. Duke outscored the Cardinals 35-10 from that point forward, recording eight steals with its revamped defense, to complete the second largest second-half comeback in school history.
On Dec. 30, 1950, the Blue Devils rallied from 31 points down in the second half to beat Tulane 74-72 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted he feared Louisville could beat his team by 35 points as the Cardinals lead grew and grew in the second half. But his team, with four freshmen starters, didn’t let that happen.
“In the last 10 minutes we were spectacular,” Krzyzewski said. “In order to overcome that difference in competitive spirit, we needed to be spectacular because it was that pronounced.”
With the game tied at 69, Reddish was initially called for an offensive foul with 14.9 seconds left. But the officials reviewed the replay monitor to determine Louisville’s Ryan McMahon was inside the restricted area of the lane. That reversal gave Reddish two free throws which he sank to put Duke in front.
Louisville’s Christen Cunningham missed a shot in the lane with two seconds left. Williamson grabbed the rebound to seal the win for Duke.
Jordan Nwora scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Cardinals, who shot 41.7 percent.
Duke shot a meager 36.4 percent in the first half and faced its largest halftime deficit of the season at 38-29.
It got worse in the early minutes after halftime as Nwora nailed a 3-pointer and Sutton added two free throws for a 43-29 Louisville lead.
Duke’s deficit grew to 16 when Malik Williams drilled a 3-pointer with 17:23 left for a 48-32 Louisville lead.
After Williamson picked up his third foul and left the game, Steven Enoch’s two free throws with 16:06 left put the Cardinals up 50-33
And it kept getting worse for the Blue Devils until they switched to a zone defense to stymie the Cardinals.
“We were out of sorts because by the time the ball crossed the half-court line, we were limited in our time on our shot clock,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “They were very, very extended in their zone and their hands were everywhere.”
Reddish, who scored 16 points in the second half, hit a 3-pointer with 9:11 to play slicing Louisville’s lead to 59-39. It looked innocent at the time but it started the comeback. Duke reeled off seven points in a row to trail 59-43.
Sutton’s 3-pointer with 6:41 appeared to put Louisville back on the path to victory. But Duke scored nine points in a row to trail 62-52 when Barrett scored in the lane with 5:16 left.
Two Nwora free throws with 4:12 left gave the Cardinals a 66-57 lead.
But Reddish hit two free throws, Barrett scored in the lane and Reddish hit a 3-pointer with 2:54 left leaving the Blue Devils down 66-64.
Nwora’s 3-pointer with 2:28 left boosted Louisville’s lead back to 69-64 and the Cardinals appeared even safer when Reddish missed a 3-pointer with 2:13 left.
Cunningham grabbed the rebound but Jones stole the ball. His layup with 2:01 left pulled Duke within 69-66.
Louisville never scored again. McMahon missed a layup and Reddish drilled a 3-pointer in transition with 1:28 left tying the score at 69.
Neither team could find its shooting touch early as they combined to make just 1 of 10 shots. The Blue Devils never did discover their 3-point shooting range in the first half, making just 3 of 15 attempts.
With Williamson and Barrett scoring inside, though, the Blue Devils forged a 19-15 when Williamson scored on a spin move in the lane with 8:41 left until halftime.
The Cardinals dominated the rest of the half by constantly getting in the lane to score in the half court and in transition.
Louisville also mixed in three 3-pointers, two by Enoch, during a 13-4 run that left Duke trailing 28-23.
Williamson stalled the Cardinals roll with a 3-pointer, but Louisville scored the game’s next eight points as the Blue Devils went scoreless on their next five possessions.
All four Louisville baskets came inside, with Enoch scoring twice. Dwayne Sutton’s basket in the lane with 1:03 left in the half gave Louisville a 36-26 lead.
Barrett hit a 3-pointer for Duke, but Cunningham’s tip-in at the buzzer gave the Cardinals a 38-29 lead at intermission.