With 9:55 remaining in the 2nd half of Tuesday night’s Duke vs Louisville game, the Blue Devils trailed the Cardinals 59-36. Then, Louisville suffered one of the most epic meltdowns in program history. During the next 9 minutes, Chris Mack’s squad would turn the ball over 9 times and shoot 20% from the field. Duke’s 35-10 run, to close a game where they had a .1 probability of winning in the 2nd half, is the greatest comeback in Coach K history. Here’s what players and coaches had to say after the 71-69 win.
Coach K’s Opening Statement:
“Well, we were very fortunate. That was a great win for us, that their team played us for 30 minutes, not just outplayed, they outcompeted us. I commend them. They probably were more deserving of winning. But, in the last 10 minutes, we were spectacular, and in order to overcome that difference in competitive spirit, needed to be spectacular because it was that pronounced. We were down 23, and they played so well. We went to our 2-2-1, and we felt that that might help us before the game, but (sophomore guard) Jordan Goldwire really helped us. We had two guards out there that put a lot of pressure, and then, (freshman forward) Zion (Williamson) played the last part of the game with four fouls and played it great, and (freshman forward) Cam (Reddish) hit dagger shots. We did enough to overcome, really not just a point deficit, but an effort and competitive deficit.”
Coach K On Believing Team Would Win with 10 Minutes to Play:
“It’s interesting. At the shoot around today, I was talking to Rece Davis, they were talking about leadership, and I said one of the things—I had Roger Federer on my show last week and I talked about his strong face. I said, ‘In order to be really good, you have to have a strong face and strong mannerisms, even if you don’t feel strong.’ And at West Point, that was one of things I learned as a cadet: even when you don’t feel like it’s going to go, your men better not see that in you, and as a result, you can speak into action sometimes. I did think that we could play better. I was hoping we wouldn’t lose by 35—I’m not kidding, we could have. So, you’re talking positive, but I don’t believe it. Once that press was going, I said, ‘We’ve got a chance here. We can get it.’ But, at that point, I think I may have been telling them a lie. As a cadet, it would be social honor, it wasn’t really something I needed to do. This is a crazy night, really as a coach, because I’ve been doing it so long. I really feel bad for them. I literally feel bad for them. They were so damn prepared for us, so well prepared, and my level of respect was already high, but it’s even higher after this game.”
Coach K On Jordan Goldwire’s Perfermance:
“Jordan’s a really good athlete. He had the best look of anyone on the bench. Sometimes when you look down and he was sitting at the edge of his seat wanting to get in. So, let’s get him in, and then you didn’t want to take him out.”
Coach Chris Mack’s Opening Statement:
“I’m really proud of my team. They competed their tails off. We played as hard as we’ve played all year. We dominated the best team in the country for 30-something minutes, and we have to figure out how to close games. I say we, that’s me, that’s all of our players. We’ve got to figure out how to finish games and close games when teams are in panic mode and they’re drawing up defenses in the sand. Give Duke great credit, their kids never quit. They battled, they turned us over it seems like 1,000 times in the last four or five minutes. I’m stunned, but I love my group, I feel for them. As I said, I thought we outplayed the best team in the country for a long time and our team will grow from this. As hard as it is to accept, we’re going to grow from it and there will be better times.”
Zion Williamson on what Coach K said in the Huddle to Keep Team Believing:
“He said he don’t coach losers, he wants to coach winners. He said, go out there and play hard and he can coach us to a win.”
Zion Williamson on Motivation in 2nd Half:
“My mom sits right behind the bench and she has always been there for me. She is the reason I am in this situation. I heard a voice and she said ‘It’s ok, just be you. When you get back in, make them pay.’ All my frustrations went away and I tried to make them pay.”
Cam Reddish on the 2nd half Comeback Plan:
“Play by play. Getting stops and getting good shots.”
- Freshman Zion Williamson finished with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds for his 10th double-double this season.
- It is the 11th 25-point game for Williamson this season, to extend the Duke freshman record.
- Freshman Cam Reddish scored 22 points for his sixth 20-point game this season. He is averaging 18.4 points over the last five games
- Duke was down 23 points (59-36) with 9:55 remaining, to mark the program’s second-biggest second-half deficit overcome in victory and the biggest in the Coach K era. The school record for second-half comebacks was a 31-point margin overcome versus Tulane in 1950.
- The Blue Devils improved to 10-1 in ACC play, their best start to an ACC season since beginning the 2010-11 season 12-1 in conference play.
- Duke is now 6-0 ACC road games this season, its best start on the road since going undefeated on the road in ACC play in 2011-12.
- Duke is now an NCAA-leading 7-1 this season in games versus AP Top 25 opponents (Kansas is 7-2), including 6- 1 in games away from Cameron Indoor Stadium.