Duke basketball: Untimely defense, sporadic offense causes season to end

Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer (Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer (Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Duke basketball season came to an end against Tennessee in the Round of 32. 

It felt like a bad omen was coming for the Duke basketball team once it was announced Mark Mitchell was unlikely to play despite him being listed in the starting lineup.

Mitchell suffered a knee injury in practice on Friday and could not move well enough on the court to play against Tennessee on Saturday and it hurt the Blue Devils on both ends of the floor.

The physicality between Duke and the Volunteers was intense and Jon Scheyer’s team could not keep up.

Uros Plavsic picked up two quick fouls in the first half for body checking Kyle Filipowski, one giving him a deep cut underneath his left eye, but the Blue Devils only shot seven total free throws in the 65-52 loss despite the tone of the game.

ALSO READ: Stunning injury sidelines Mark Mitchell before tipoff

Tennessee seized control of the game with a 14-2 run in the final 7:50 of the first half after the Blue Devils took a 19-13 lead on the heels of a 9-0 spurt.

Duke would get back within two, 33-31, with 15:42 left in the second half and Tyrese Proctor would pass up on a transition 3-pointer to take a triple in the flow of the half-court offense but missed.

Olivier Nkamhoua would have a 3-point opportunity on the ensuing possession — which also saw Jeremy Roach pick up his fourth foul.

Nkamhoua shined in the second half for the Volunteers with 23 of his 27 points coming after halftime and scored 17 of the final 19 points for Tennessee.

Proctor finished with a team-high 16 points for the Blue Devils while Roach ended with 13 points in what could have been his final game in a Duke jersey.

Duke basketball defense unable to contain breakout star

Duke was within six points of Tennessee, 48-42, with 8:22 remaining as Nkamhoua drew a questionable charging foul on Filipowski, which would have been a 3-point opportunity for the Blue Devils should a blocking foul been called.

The 6-foot-9 senior, who only scored eight points against Louisiana in the Round of 64, would hit a 3-pointer on the other end to extend the lead back to nine, 51-42.

ALSO READ: Kyle Filipowski explains illness during Oral Roberts win

Duke could not get a timely stops on the defensive end, primarily due to the efficiency of Nkamhoua, and its last opportunity came with under seven minutes to play when the Blue Devils were within five on two occasions but the Finland native would answer both times late in the shot clock to push the lead back to seven.

The dagger came with 4:17 left as Olivier Nkamhoua hit a 3-pointer to give Tennessee its largest lead of the game to that point, 59-48.

Tennessee will face either Florida Atlantic or Fairleigh Dickinson in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night  at Madison Square Garden.

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