Duke executes down stretch to hold off Miami

The Blue Devils scrapped and clawed their way to a win in Durham

Duke guard Jeremy Roach guards Miami forward Norchad Omier during the Blue Devils' win Saturday in Durham. (Jacob Kupferman / AP Photo)

DURHAM — Last weekend at Clemson, Duke pulled to within one point with just under four minutes left. Down the stretch, the Blue Devils went 0 for 4 from the field and commit three turnovers as the Tigers pulled away for a 72-64 win.

Coach Jon Scheyer didn’t pull any punches after the game.

“Just learning how to win,” he said of his team. “You’ve got to learn to hate to lose.”

Scheyer said that Clemson was “physical” on defense, then added, “It’s, for us, learning how to play through that. You’re going to play really good defenses and, down the stretch, knowing how to manufacture points for each other.”

The Blue Devils got a chance to show what they’d learned in their very next game, as Saturday’s home game against Miami hit the stretch run with Duke clinging to a one-point lead.

With 2:22 left, Miami rebounded a Duke missed 3-pointer and headed up court with a chance to take the lead. Isaiah Wong, the Hurricanes’ leading scorer, had the ball in his hand, and Jeremy Roach met him at halfcourt, stepping in front of him for a full-body collision near the jump circle. The ball trickled loose and freshman big man Kyle Filipowski, not for the first time that game, went to the floor to control it. He was fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead.

A short time later, Miami again had the ball, down two, with a chance to tie or take the lead. As the Canes crossed midcourt, the PA announcer intoned that there was one minute left in the game.

For the next 20 seconds, all technique and skill fell by the wayside as all 10 players on the floor battled underneath the Miami basket in search of the ball. Nijel Pack missed a short shot, then battled through the trees to get his own rebound. Another short miss and another Miami offensive rebound. Miami shot point-blank and missed yet again.

Elbows hit bodies. Shoulders collided with backs. Bodies fell to the floor. The ball bounced free, and Duke’s Ryan Young came down with it in his hands.

When the dust cleared, Duke held on for a 68-66 win. Their last made field goal in the game came at the 5:17 mark, yet the Blue Devils still found a way to get enough points on the board to pull off the victory.

“Just gutting it out,” Scheyer said. “Getting loose balls, finishing plays, because you like to say ‘make shots’ and we do, we execute. I thought we got some good ones, but our defense has been our backbone. And I think we are the type of team we have to gut it out and scrap and crawl, and we did that. The last minute, that stop that we got — I think it was a two- or three-point game and just to come up with the loose ball, really to me, was the difference.”

It was definitely a win to build on, as the Blue Devils showed the fire and fight that Coach K’s best teams were known for. And it came in the heat of battle against one of the ACC’s top teams — Miami entered tied for second in the conference, a game out of the top spot.

Filipowski finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and a galaxy of floor burns.

“We locked up on the defensive end and we took in the rebounds and the loose balls mattered the most,” he said “Just those key plays like that helped us get the win.”

Roach, who missed the last three games with an injured toe, blew past his minutes limit in his return and scored 14 in 27 minutes. He added a second clutch-time steal of Wong in the final seconds of the game as Miami was trying to rally.

“Getting stops was the biggest key in those last two minutes,” he said. “I just didn’t want him to score, get in the lane and try to find somebody, or me getting caught off, he gets a step on me and gets a layup. I just wanted to get a stop.”

A week after learning the price of victory, the Blue Devils showed they were more than willing to pay it.