GREENSBORO — With three and a half minutes left in the first half, Duke’s Tyrese Proctor got himself in some trouble. While handling the ball in the Blue Devils’ ACC Quarterfinal matchup against Pitt, the freshman point guard fell down.
Somehow, Proctor managed to keep his dribble alive from his knees as he scrambled, unsuccessfully, to get back to his feet. A pair of Pitt defenders descended on him. It appeared a turnover or, at best, a held ball was in the offing.
Instead, Proctor fired a bullet pass, zipping the ball between Pitt players and into the waiting hands of Duke center Dereck Lively. The big man laid it in for a basket and was fouled in the process, turning a fall into three points for Duke.
It was that kind of day for Proctor and the Blue Devils. With most of the roster playing in their first-ever ACC Tournament game, Duke was dominant in dispatching the Panthers, 96-69.
Duke set a team ACC tourney record with 27 assists, breaking the old mark by three. Proctor was responsible for 10 of them with just one turnover for the day. He also added 11 points, going 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
“He played a tremendous game,” said Pitt’s Jamarius Burton, an All-ACC first-teamer. “He took what the defense gave us, and he really picked us apart.”
Lively, the recipient of Proctor’s unlikeliest assist, scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and four of his made shots were off of Proctor passes.
“That’s something you know, being able to have that connection with me and my guards is something you just always got to have,” he said. “Whenever they’re going through a hard time, you just got to help them out. You got to take the pressure off of them. You got to help them get the defense off (of them), but sometimes they’re going throw some bullet passes. You gotta be able to keep your hands ready. You just got to be able to keep your mind right there.”
Duke also got a big game from Kyle Filipowski, who turned his ankle early in the game but returned after getting it retaped and scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 4 of 6 from on 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils now play top-seeded Miami in Friday’s semifinal. Duke was blown out 81-59 in Miami in early February. According to several players, the Hurricanes players did a lot of talking late in their easy win.
“Their win against us was a lot more ferocious than ours (a two-point win at Duke three weeks earlier),” said Filipowski. “So you better believe we’re gonna have that momentum and we’re gonna take the next opportunity to redeem ourselves. … It’s going to be a lot different. Our mentality going into the game — you didn’t really see a lot of heart out of us in that game. So we’re just gonna come out, we realize everyone’s seasons on the line now, and we’re just gonna do whatever we can to win.”