ORLANDO, Fla. — Duke saw its season come to an end with a 65-52 loss to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, Florida.
The Volunteers snapped the Blue Devils’ 10-game winning streak, outrebounding Duke in a physical game.
Duke suffered its first blow before the game started when freshman forward Mark Mitchell — one of two Duke players to start every game this season — injured his knee in practice on Friday.
“It happened last second,” said coach Jon Scheyer. “We’re not sure quite what’s wrong. We need to do some follow-ups with him, but he didn’t feel great yesterday, and we felt like he was going to give it a go today and try.”
Mitchell was listed as a starter in the starting lineups handed out by the NCAA prior to tipoff, but a change was made and Dariq Whitehead replaced him in the lineup that took the floor.
“Mark has been a warrior for us all year,” Scheyer said. “Showed up every single day, competed every day, and right before the tip, he just didn’t have the same burst. So, obviously not going to put him out there if he didn’t feel great, and he didn’t.”
The Blue Devils could have used him against a team that could match them in size and power in the paint. Early in the game, Kyle Filipowski took an elbow in the face, opening a cut under his eye. He returned to the game and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Blue Devils tried to match Tennessee’s physical play, but Duke quickly ran into foul trouble. Jeremy Roach picked up three fouls in the first half and Dereck Lively four. Roach then picked up a fourth foul early in the second half and went to the bench.
“It was a disjointed game,” said Scheyer. “One, we didn’t have Mark right before the game. Jeremy gets three fouls and his fourth pretty early.”
Still, the Blue Devils continued to hang close as Tennessee built a small lead.
“It wasn’t ideal,” Scheyer said. “That’s part of how it goes. … We still played those guys, and they did a good job playing through it, but you end up managing the game as opposed to being really aggressive and instinctive.”
Duke went to a zone defense in the second half to protect the team from further foul trouble and to rest the shorthanded roster for the stretch run. The strategy backfired, however, when Tennessee, who ranked No. 218 in the country in 3-point shooting, hit 6 of 11 from long range in the second half and 9 of 19 for the game. Olivier Nkamhoua, who had hit just 15 3s all year, went 3 of 4 from three on his way to a game-high 27 points.
“Credit them,” Scheyer said. “They hit some 3s. They haven’t been a great shooting team like that, but they made us pay for that tonight.”
The Blue Devils finish Scheyer’s first season as coach with a 27-9 record.
“I’m proud to accomplish what we have,” he said. “These guys are champions. They’re ACC champions. They have 27 wins. They’ve had a really good year.”