Duke basketball offseason plan backfires in loss to Arizona

Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer and forward Kyle Filipowski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer and forward Kyle Filipowski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Duke basketball offseason plan backfired in its loss to Arizona. 

The biggest question surrounding the Duke basketball team this offseason was how would the team replace Dereck Lively II and his versatility defensively.

In short, they didn’t.

The Blue Devils did not add a center from the transfer portal or another freshman recruit and it backfired on Jon Scheyer during No. 2 Duke’s 78-73 loss to No. 12 Arizona (2-0).

It became apparent very early that the Wildcats had a significant advantage in the paint behind 7-foot center Oumar Ballo and Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd was going to exploit the mismatch all night.

Ballo only went for 13 points and five rebounds but it was his presence that allowed the Arizona guards to dominant on the backboards, out-rebounding Duke 45-33.

ALSO READ: Isaiah Evans sets date to sign with Duke

The Blue Devils tried multiple answers at the center position to combat the size of the Wildcats with Kyle Filipowski, Ryan Young, Christian Reeves, and Sean Stewart and none of it worked.

Filipowski led the way with 25 points and eight rebounds and while Reeves or Stewart did not play poorly for Duke, neither got a legitimate chance to prove that they could compete with a combined six minutes on the floor.

Young, who played the most minutes off the bench with 12, was a non-factor on the floor due to his nonexistent offensive game as Arizona parked Ballo in the paint every time Young touched the ball on the perimeter.

Duke basketball still had opportunity to win

Despite all that, Duke had a chance to win the game late in the second half but the Blue Devils could never execute properly when having the chance to take the lead.

Jeremy Roach, who finished with 17 points, would hit a 3-pointer with 2:11 left to give Duke a 67-65 advantage but an Arizona offensive rebound off of a missed 3-pointer allowed Keshad Johnson, who led the Wildcats with 14 points, to tie the game.

ALSO READ: Duke ‘plans’ to redshirt sophomore after absence from opener

Filipowski would put the Blue Devils back on top by a bucket with 1:09 to play but, again, it was Johnson who completed a conventional 3-point play to swing the lead back to Arizona’s favor with 47.6 seconds left and would not relinquish it.

Tyrese Proctor would be called for a travel with 27.2 seconds remaining on a possession that could have put the Blue Devils in front as Arizona would make six straight free throws and a dunk as time expired to put the game away.

Things will not get easier for Duke (1-1) as the team travels to Chicago to face No. 4 Michigan State (1-1) on Tuesday night (7:00p.m. ET, ESPN) in the Champions Classic.

Next. Major visitors to take official visits for Arizona game. dark