A rally for the ages

By Adam Rowe Special to the Times
Posted 2/13/19

At Louisville on Tuesday, Duke looked listless and like it wanted to be anywhere but the KFC Yum! Center for the first 30 minutes of play. 

Down 59-36 with 9:55 remaining, the Blue Devils …

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A rally for the ages

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At Louisville on Tuesday, Duke looked listless and like it wanted to be anywhere but the KFC Yum! Center for the first 30 minutes of play. 

Down 59-36 with 9:55 remaining, the Blue Devils roared back to mark the program’s second-biggest comeback in a second half and the biggest in the Mike Krzyzewski era. 

Behind Zion Williamson’s 10th double-double of the year with 27 points and 10 rebounds, the Blue Devils scored nearly as many points in the final 10 minutes of action (35) as they did in the first 30 (36). 

Past teams would have — and have — folded under a 23-point deficit (the team’s largest of the season), but not this group. Williamson scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds, had three steals and a block while going 3 for 3 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line to seal the win.


In one of the only games of the year that Duke has been the underdog, the No. 2-ranked Blue Devils went in to the lion’s den at John Paul Jones Arena and came out with a regular-season sweep of Virginia. Winning at UVA and sweeping it is something not a lot of programs have been able to claim since Tony Bennett got to Charlottesville, but this team of freshmen did just that. Williamson was, again, playing at an elite level, while RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish all of a sudden found their shooting strokes in a game where their contributions were sorely needed. Duke, one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country coming into last Saturday’s game, was able to connect on 61 percent of its perimeter shots, the program’s best accuracy mark since the 2015 season.


After scoring 22 points in Duke’s comeback win over Louisville, Reddish now has six 20-point games this season. He is averaging 18.4 points over the last five games and has hit three or more 3-pointers in his last five games, while hitting four or more in his last four games. Reddish, on Tuesday, missed his first free throw since Jan. 19 against Virginia, although he did make 4 of 5. He had made 18 in a row entering the Louisville game.


Barrett became the fastest Duke freshman to score 500 points last week, and his teammate, Williamson, joined him after scoring 18 in the win over Virginia. With 27 against Louisville, Williamson now sits in ninth place all-time with 529 points, just two points behind Austin Rivers. Barrett sits in seventh with 544 points, just behind Luol Deng’s 558. Both Barrett and Williamson are on pace to fly by Marvin Bagley’s record of 694 points set just last season, depending on how many games Duke gets to play in the postseason.


Duke stands alone in first place in the ACC regular-season standings at 10-1, with the all-important tiebreaker over second-place Virginia. North Carolina is tied with UVA at 9-2 in second, with Virginia Tech and Louisville tied for fourth at 8-4. Duke also holds a tiebreaker over Louisville and will take on the Hokies in Blacksburg, Virginia and North Carolina twice (home and away) before the end of the regular season.


Starting with a road trip to Virginia and then Louisville, Duke has made it through one-third of its ridiculously tough six-game stretch unscathed. The next two games will see Duke stay at home to take on an N.C. State team that was ranked at one point in the season this Saturday, and then the first game against UNC the following Wednesday. Two more road tests follow, with the Blue Devils visiting Syracuse on Feb. 23, their only loss in the ACC to this point. Three days later, Duke visits No. 22 Virginia Tech in a game where the Hokies could see the return of point guard Justin Robinson.


Duke can finish no lower than ninth place in the ACC after the team’s win over Louisville pushed its record to 10-1. That guarantees that it will get a first-round bye and not have to play on Tuesday in Charlotte in the ACC Tournament. A few more wins, and Duke will wrap up a double bye.

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.