Blue Devils had time (out) on their side against UNC

One timeout that was called and another that wasnt played a major role in Dukes ACC tournament semifinal win against the Tar Heels on Friday

Brad Penner—USA Today Sports
Mar 10

BROOKLYN — Timeouts are more than just an opportunity to get a snack or take a quick bathroom break during an exciting college basketball game. They can also be the difference between winning and losing. That was the case Friday night at Barclays Center in the ACC tournament semifinal matchup between rivals Duke and North Carolina. Although the game will be best remembered for Jayson Tatum’s powerful drives to the basket, Grayson Allen’s 3-point barrage and the decisive 10-minute stretch Tar Heels star Joel Berry spent on the bench in the second half with foul trouble, the real story of the Blue Devils’ 93-83 victory can be boiled down to two timeouts. One that was called and one that wasn’t. The first and most important came at the 13;39 mark of the second half. It was called by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski immediately after Tatum’s explosive dunk that cut UNC’s 13-point lead down to 61-50 and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Though calling time out after such a momentum-changing play seemed odd at the time, it turned out to be a stroke of genius because Krzyzewski — knowing that the Tar Heels were vulnerable after having just lost Berry to his fourth foul — wanted to make sure his team was rested and ready to mount a full frontal assault on a wounded opponent. “I think whatever, good decision or bad decision, I’m not afraid to make a decision and I make my decision knowing my guys, whether it be Duke, U.S. Army,” Krzyzewski, the West Point graduate and former Army officer said. “I know these guys. I trust them. “There isn’t like this recipe for how you coach a game. You determine based on your team what you’re going to do and I’ve always done that. And then you pay the price. The price has been good.” It was against UNC on Friday. After forcing a missed shot out of the timeout, Duke’s comeback shifted into full gear when Luke Kennard hit a 3-pointer as he was fouled by the Tar Heels’ Nate Britt. The ensuing free throw helped trim the Blue Devils’ deficit to single digits and ignited a blitz that saw them outscore the tournament’s top seed 38-14 the rest of the way. “After the timeout,” UNC’s Theo Pinson said. “That was a big momentum swing and got them back in the game.” If Kennard’s four-point play got the Blue Devils back into the game, then it was a two-minute stretch later in the second half that helped them take control. It started with Frank Jackson driving to the basket for a layup that put Duke ahead 72-70. A Justin Jackson offensive foul on the other end of the court led to a Kennard 3-pointer, which was followed by a Jackson shot that was blocked by Harry Giles. Giles then punctuated his play on the defensive end with an alley oop dunk that gave the Blue Devils a seven-point cushion and effectively decided the game. The last two of those plays came with Berry sitting at the scorer’s table waiting to come back in. If Williams had called timeout just as the Blue Devils’ snowball was just getting started, he might have been able to either slow the momentum or at the very least, have a better shot and changing it with his most important player in the game. But the UNC coach likes calling timeouts as much as a child enjoys eating brussel sprouts and he let the play go on. It’s a philosophy he defended afterward. “I’ve had people say I don’t call time-outs my whole life, but we’ve won some games, and it’s the way we do it,” Williams said. “I always think that that’s what we practice for. We practice every day being able to play without me calling them over to say I love you and singing Kumbaya and all that BS. “Kids have to be able to handle adversity and that’s the reason we practice. We’ve had some great comebacks when I’ve had time-outs left at the end. I’ve seen some games on TV yet this year when games were lost when coaches wished they had a time-out. I don’t ever want to coach us out of a game.” Krzyzewski counted with the notion that sometimes its better to use your timeouts when you need them rather than saving them until the final few possessions when it might be too late. “Games are not won always at the end,” the Blue Devils coach said. “They’re won at certain periods of time, and if you can win those periods of time by your feel, as many games as you’re in, that’s what I try to do. Again, I may not feel the right thing tomorrow night, but I’m going to trust what I feel.”