Duke basketball clutch gene in full bloom in Sweet 16 victory

Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) /

The clutch gene of the Duke basketball team is in full bloom. 

There is something special brewing with the Duke basketball team.

After it looked like this team did not have the clutch gene after a disappointing two weeks to end the regular season and ACC Tournament, something has changed with the Blue Devils.

Duke showed its moxie in the final four minutes in the Round of 32 against Michigan State, and it showed even more moxie on Thursday night in San Francisco against Texas Tech in the Sweet 16.

The Red Raiders punched the Blue Devils in the mouth with their smothering defense in the opening four minutes, but Duke was able to settle into the game and claw its way back.

Both teams traded blows in a heavyweight fight the entire second half. However, things looked to be teetering for Mike Krzyzewski’s after it took a 3-point lead, 64-61, on a thunderous dunk by Mark Williams with 5:36 remaining.

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Texas Tech went on a 7-2 run in the next 2:15 to take a 68-66 lead before Paolo Banchero hit the biggest shot of his career, a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, to put the Blue Devils back in front. And Duke never looked back.

Jeremy Roach hit a fadeaway and elbow jumper to push the Duke lead to five, 73-68, with 1:32 left. Then the Blue Devils were able to close things out at the free throw line despite a late push from the Red Raiders, winning 78-73.

All five of Duke’s starters scored at least 11 points as Banchero led the way with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

Williams added 16 points and eight rebounds, but it was the 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists from Roach that willed the Blue Devils to victory.

Duke basketball wins with adjustments at halftime

Duke came out of the halftime locker room with the focus to get the basketball inside to Mark Williams, and it opened up the floor for the Blue Devils.

Coach K’s team shot an unprecedented 71-percent from the floor in the second half and made its last eight field goals from the field against one of the best defenses in the country.

However, midway through the second half, Krzyzewski opted to play a 2-3 zone that took Texas Tech by surprise and allowed the Duke defense to find its footing after allowing multiple layups to begin the second stanza.

Duke then switched back to a man-to-man defense in the final two minutes. It worked to perfection as the Blue Devils closed things out and advanced to the Elite Eight.

Thursday marked the 100th career victory for Mike Krzyzewski in his NCAA Tournament career.

Tipoff is slated for 8:49 p.m. EST from the Chase Center in San Francisco, California as Duke will play No. 4 seed Arkansas, which upset top-seeded Gonzaga on Thursday.

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