The sixth-ranked Duke Blue Devils nearly suffered their second loss in this early season on Tuesday, but pulled out a 83-74 victory over East Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium to avoid what would've been one of the biggest upsets of the season.
After looking like the game would be over at halftime, the Pirates made things interesting in the early parts of the second half. The Blue Devils—who led by as many as 18 early on—saw their lead evaporate to just one point with 7:39 left.
With the score at 64-63 and the fans at Cameron Indoor at a fever pitch, Jabari Parker proved he was far and away the best player on the court.
The Pirates were one basket away from their first lead when the talented freshman stuffed an East Carolina player, picked up the rebound and was fouled on the other end.
Parker—who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds—would sink both from the charity stripe, and Duke kept the pesky Pirates at a distance for the final minutes to avoid the upset.
While that crucial stretch helped to decide Duke's fate, this coast-to-coast flush from Parker only added to his growing highlight reel:
When East Carolina came within one possession on multiple occasions, Rodney Hood was able to answer the call for the Blue Devils numerous times. The Mississippi State transfer led Duke with a career-high 30 points, hitting eight of his 10 shots from the field and notching a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Hood's two layups and eight free throws in the final 3:11 held off an opponent that refused to wilt despite receiving knockout blow after knockout blow.
The Blue Devils got off to a blistering start against the Conference USA opponent, securing an 18-point lead late into the first half. However, the Pirates would fight back and cut the deficit to 43-32 after 20 minutes of play.
A resurgent East Carolina squad came out firing in the early parts of the second half, trimming the Duke lead to five less than three minutes into the final period. Twice they saw the deficit trickle down to just one point, but couldn't put themselves on top.
A balanced scoring attack fueled the Pirates. Prince Williams, Akeem Richmond, Paris Roberts-Campbell and Antonio Robinson all scored in double figures.
East Carolina's 19-for-20 (95 percent) performance from the charity stripe also helped them mount the comeback and stay within striking distance, but the biggest free throws of the night came from Hood in the final moments.
Is Duke a top-5 team?
Slipping up to current-No. 2 Kansas during the opening week of the season was more than acceptable for a Blue Devils team that is still figuring out how to replace a heap of departed players. That was shown by their minimal drop to just No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25.
However, a loss at home to a heavy underdog would've sent shockwaves through throughout the college basketball world.
Fortunately for Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils, that didn't happen. Parker had a good enough of a game to make an impact, but it was the other hyped-newcomer Hood that put the win on ice in the final stretches.
Having a go-to guy not named Parker would immensely help the overall potential of this team. Hood has been just that throughout this early stretch, and he proved on Tuesday that he won't wilt in big moments.