The #16 Louisville Cardinals knew this season would be hard, particularly the month of February. They had lost two of their three games this month, and the competition would not be getting any easier as they face #2 Duke.
And despite having a historic lead against the Blue Devils, the Cards crumbled late and lost 71-69 in the final seconds.
Even the most passive college basketball fan had heard tales of Duke’s dominance this season. They are a perennial powerhouse but this year has been something special.
They are led by their much-ballyhooed freshman class, especially the duo of demigods RJ Barret and Zion Williamson, who have contributed over 77 percent of their scoring this season.
But they can be beaten. And the Cards have bounced back from a loss with an upset victory several times already this season, and definitely wanted to do it again.
The teams stayed close for most of the first half, with both teams getting small leads at certain points, until Louisville went on a 10-3 run in the final three minutes to head into halftime up 38-29.
It was the largest halftime deficit the Blue Devils had faced all season.
Jordan Nwora had 12 points in the first 20 minutes. Steven Enoch put in ten.
The Cards’ lead to Duke’s largest deficit of the season. Louisville increased the lead to 23 points at the midway point of the second half, but overall did not have a good second half and couldn’t put the Blue Devils all the way away.
In the final ten minutes Duke came alive as the Cards collapsed. The Blue Devils went on a 33-13 run to tie it up with 90 seconds left to go in the game.
Ryan McMahon got called for a blocking foul with 15 seconds to go which allowed Duke to hit two free-throws to put them up for good. Christen Cunningham missed a game-tying jumper as the clock wound down.
It was the largest comeback the Blue Devils had in over 60 years.
The Cards beat Duke in almost every statistical category, but perhaps most notable was Louisville’s 17 turnovers, 13 of them in the second half. The Blue Devils scored 19 points off those turnovers, pivotal in their late comeback and eventual victory.
Jordan Nwora led the team in points and rebounds, earning a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Dwayne Sutton and Steven Enoch also scored in double figures.
Louisville falls to 17-8 on the season (8-4 ACC). Duke moves to 22-2 (10-1 ACC).
The Cards will be looking to mend their broken hearts and avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season as they host Clemson on February 16.<
Chris Acree joined The Cardinal Connect as a contributing writer in August of 2016.