Duke knocks off Louisville to advance to ACC quarterfinals

The Blue Devils will play Florida State on Thursday

Duke’s Mark Williams pulls in one of his 19 rebounds during the the Blue Devils 70-56 victory Wednesday over Louisville in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. (Photo courtesy of the ACC)

GREENSBORO — Duke kept its ACC Tournament run going with a 70-56 win over Louisville in the second round. The win was Duke’s second straight after ending the regular season with three straight losses.

For the second straight game, Duke jumped out to an early lead, opening the game with an 11-5 run. The margin grew as large as 14 in the first half, but Louisville stormed back and took a one-point lead just before halftime. A Matt Hurt three in the waning seconds gave the Blue Devils a two-point lead at the break.

“We just told our kids at halftime, I thought we out-fought them for 12 minutes, they out-fought us for eight, and we’ve got to fight for 20 minutes because they’re such a good team,” Mike Krzyzewski said.

The Blue Devils opened the second half with a 9-0 run to get back in front by double figures. The lead grew to as big as 17 as Duke avoided a three-game sweep by the Cardinals. Louisville won one regular season game by five and the other in overtime. Duke has never been swept in three games by an ACC rival since the league expanded in 2005.

Duke next plays No. 2 seed Florida State on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Three thoughts

1. Krzyzewski decided to put in a new defense for the game.

“It’s not zone,” he said, “but we call it 11. It’s still man-to-man, but it’s a switching man, which really protects the paint. Instead of like trying to put a matchup in or anything like that, in the past we — not this year, but some of our teams in the past we did that, and we decided the best way to try to keep those two guards out of the lane was to do that. Our guys were able to pick this up in an — they got our game plan in an hour, and they were able to execute it.”

2. The speculation is that Duke needs to win five straight games to take the ACC Tournament title in order to make the NCAA Tournament. At the very least, Duke needs to get to the title game to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid, but Coach K has a different outlook.

“Right now we’re in the tournament,” he said. “We have to keep winning in order to advance to next week, but when you’re in your conference tournament, you are in the NCAA Tournament. You’re just maybe not one of those 68 teams right now. You have to look at it that way.”

3. A day after Duke got a big boost from its bench and rested its starters in the blowout of Boston College, the Blue Devils got no bench points at all against the Cardinals. Jordan Goldwire came off the bench for 23 minutes, but three other bench players combined for 15 minutes and two shot attempts.

Number to Know

13 — In two games against the Blue Devils in the regular season, Louisville guard Carlik Jones scored 24 and 25 points and drew 20 fouls on Blue Devil players. Jones was held to 5-of-14 shooting and 13 points in the tournament game.

They Said It

“He only had one rebound yesterday, so he’s averaging 10 a game. Just to keep his ego in check.”

— Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Mark Williams’ 19-rebound game

Player of the Game

Mark Williams, Blue Devils — The freshman center set an ACC Tournament freshman record with 19 rebounds, which is the second most by a Blue Devil in the history of the tournament and most since 1980. He also had a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

Critical thinking

With the shorter season and several interruptions, it has taken longer than usual, but Duke is finally coming together. In a non-pandemic year,  the Blue Devils might have had time to develop into a contender. Instead, it’s likely Duke will miss its first tournament in a quarter-century.