Duke basketball: Slow start and head-scratching close sink Blue Devils

Louisville's David Johnson playing inside Duke basketball's Cameron Indoor Stadium (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Louisville's David Johnson playing inside Duke basketball's Cameron Indoor Stadium (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

73. 434. Final. 79. 438

The Duke basketball team could not start or close the game on Saturday against Louisville any worse and it resulted in the second straight loss for the Blue Devils.

Saturday night was a chance for Duke to get back in the win column after a loss on the road to the Clemson Tigers, but after a virtual ‘no-show’ in South Carolina the Blue Devils came out sluggish once again.

Louisville jumped all over Duke to start the game, leading by as many as 15 points in the first half, but after the first 12 minutes, the Blue Devils finally woke up, valued the basketball, and started playing tougher.

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Duke would cut the Cardinals lead to as little as five but Louisville would have an answer, taking a ten point lead into the locker room.

As expected, the Blue Devils would make a run in the second half, but Duke was never able to get over the hump as Louisville always had an answer when its lead got cut down to four or five.

Duke tied the game at 58 and 63, but that’s the closest the Blue Devils would get on Saturday evening as trailing by three late in the game, Duke lost any semblance of offense it once showed.

Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley both took ill-advised shots and Louisville was able to drop the hammer down on the Blue Devils in the closing seconds, winning 79-73.

Stanley had a career night for Duke with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but Jones had a night to forget with 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting and four turnovers while getting man-handled on defense by David Johnson.

Johnson came into the game averaging 3.7 points per game but the freshman went for 19 points in the Louisville victory.

Duke did a great job defending the ACC Preseason Player of the Year as Jordan Nwora only had six points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Joining Jones and Stanley in reaching double-digits were Vernon Carey Jr. and Matthew Hurt with 12 and 16 points, respectively, despite being plagued by foul trouble.

Carey Jr. was not on the floor on the three horrific possessions while Duke was trailing by three at the end of the game.

Louisville shot 43.8 percent from the floor (29-of-60) and 50.0 percent from 3-point range (7-of-14) while Duke was just 37.1 percent from the field (23-of-62) and a painful 24.0 percent from 3-point range (6-of-25).

Duke has now dropped two straight games and is no longer in first place in the ACC as Florida State is now on top of the conference with Louisville on the tails of the Seminoles.

The Blue Devils sit at 15-3 on the season and 5-2 in ACC play with a second matchup against the Miami Hurricanes coming on Tuesday, January 21 at 9:00pm EST on ESPN.