Louisville (15-3, 3-2) pulled away in the final five minutes to score a much-needed 78-69 victory over Duke (14-4, 2-3) in a Top 15 battle Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.
Anas Mahmoud led the charge for the 14th-ranked Cardinals with a season-high 17 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Donovan Mitchell (15), Quentin Snider (13) and Ray Spalding (11) also reached double figures in scoring as the team shot 47.5 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Grayson Allen put together a great outing for the No. 7 Blue Devils with 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a losing effort. Otherwise, the offense sputtered, tallying 17 turnovers as the team hunts for more consistency while head coach Mike Krzyzewski recovers from back surgery.
Here's a look at the scoring recap from the high-profile ACC clash:
|2016-17 College Basketball: (7) Duke at (14) Louisville|
|Team||First Half||Second Half||Total|
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino entered Saturday's game seeking improvement from his squad following a sluggish start to conference play. It's included losses to Virginia and Notre Dame as well as a close call against unranked Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal passed along comments the longtime coach made on his weekly UofL Radio Network program about his mindset following the 85-80 escape against the Panthers.
"I've been really upset," Pitino said. "I went back to the office. I told the staff to go back. We watched film of the game. We made our adjustments. We talked about Duke. I slept in the office."
The early returns weren't promising. Duke raced out to a seven-point lead with the Louisville offense stuck in neutral. The Cardinals scored just 12 points in the first 12 minutes, missing their first six three-point attempts in the process.
It forced them to lean heavily on their defense, which came into the game leading the nation in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
The commitment to pressuring Duke to play 94 feet on offense paid off, as the Blue Devils turned the ball over seven times before the break and had several other disjointed possessions. The visitors also racked up 13 personal fouls and connected on just two of their seven shots from three.
Seth Davis of CBS Sports summed up the grind-it-out style of play from both sides:
The Cardinals came to life at the offensive end during the latter stages of the opening 20 minutes, though. They went on a 20-5 run to grab the lead. Unsurprisingly, heating up from beyond the arc was key, as they made three of their four outside shots after the ice-cold start.
Louisville shot just 37 percent before the intermission but assisted on nine of its 11 first-half field goals. It led by as many as eight late in the half, but crucial buckets from Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum kept Duke well within striking distance.
Adam Rowe of 247Sports noted the Blue Devils' playmaking was in direct contrast with the Cards':
Duke came out of the locker room with a 7-2 spurt. Allen capped it with a pair of free throws to give the Blue Devils a one-point lead.
The Cardinals quickly regained control, though. They built an eight-point lead with 14:28 to go, but Allen almost single-handedly kept Duke in the game. He scored nine straight Duke points at one point.
The controversial junior guard and Louisville's Mitchell got into an intense physical encounter at both ends of the floor in the second half. Cork Gaines of Business Insider showcased one example:
Allen just didn't get enough help from his teammates in the second half, though. And the Louisville offense stayed hot after the initial shooting problems, coming up with several key buckets down the stretch any time Duke tried to make a late charge.
Nick Coffey of the Cardinal Connect noted Louisville's notable wins already this season:
ESPN Stats & Info spotlighted the Blue Devils' road issues:
Looking ahead, the Cardinals have a terrific opportunity to build off Saturday's critical win, with four of their next five games coming against unranked opponents. The lone exception is a road trip to face No. 9 Florida State next Saturday.
The Blue Devils must search for some stability in what's becoming a dangerously up-and-down period of the season. The talent is there for them to contend for a national title, but getting all of the pieces to fit together has been a struggle for Krzyzewski and now associate head coach Jeff Capel.
Duke's schedule does provide a chance to get things straightened out. The team doesn't play again until next weekend against Miami and has three straight games without facing a ranked foe. It must take advantage of the next two weeks to get back on a winning track.
Afterward, Fred Cowgill of WLKY provided some instant reaction from Pitino about the win:
The Louisville head coach also discussed Allen, who he stopped on the sideline for a brief chat during the traditional handshake line, per Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Greer pointed out Pitino called the polarizing Duke star a "terrific young man."
On the flip side, Howie Lindsey of KRD noted Capel made it clear the Blue Devils need to make the necessary adjustments after a series of missteps early in the conference campaign.
"We have to change this. Period. We have to change this," he said. "Being close is not good enough. We have to win."