BOZICH | Duke vs. Louisville in ACC Tournament, but it's no rematch
Louisville will open play in the ACC Tournament with Duke Thursday, but don't think of the game as a rematch of the one the Cards won against the Blue Devils in January.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (WDRB) – When Louisville defeated Duke two months ago, Frank Jackson played 10 minutes off the bench and scored three points for the Blue Devils.
On Wednesday, as Duke eliminated Clemson, 79-72, during Day Two of the ACC Tournament at the Barclays Center, the Blue Devils did not have a better player than Jackson. He made both of his shots from distance and was one of three Duke players to score 20.
Against Louisville, Grayson Allen carried Duke with 23 points. Against Clemson, Allen carried a tender ankle, a technical foul and a frown. He played a dozen erratic minutes, missing all four of his shots.
There’s more. Amile Jefferson, a Duke senior and the most powerful connection to the 2015 national championship team, gave coach Mike Krzyzewski 11 points and 10 rebounds. In Louisville, Allen wore a boot on his foot and gave Duke a few fist pumps.
Did somebody mention Coach K?
He missed the Louisville game with back surgery. He’s back – and so is Duke, ready for a quarterfinal game with the Cardinals at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The four-seed (U of L) vs. the five (Duke), just as the ticket scalpers outside the arena hoped – with a North Carolina-Miami game as the noon warmup.
It’s the second time the teams have played this season. But it’s no rematch.
Not when Jefferson and Coach K missed the first game. Not with Allen struggling and Jackson, a freshman, emerging at point guard while averaging more than 18 points over the Blue Devils’ last eight games.
Not with Krzyzewski tightening his bench so emphatically that five guys playe all but 22 of 200 possible minutes against the Tigers.
“Amile is going to be huge for us just because of how well he’s been playing,” Allen said. “He’s a beast on the boards and he’s been scoring the ball really well here lately. As one of our leaders, he does an amazing job of just commanding our team when he’s our there.
“And obviously it’ll be nice to have coach back.”
Unlike Coach K, Jefferson was in the KFC Yum! Center Jan. 14. He had a front-row look at Louisville’s 78-69 victory.
Saw Anas Mahmoud deliver a terrific 17-point, 11-rebound game. Watched the Cards unsettle the Blue Devils with seven steals. Saw Donovan Mitchell stick three shots from distance while scoring 15. Saw Louisville have an answer for everything Duke tried.
“It was tight,” Jefferson said. “They did a good job of going to the boards. I thought their bigs really hurt us that game. They have a kid in Mitchell, who’s really, really a talented player, one of the better players in our league. We have to come ready for a fight.”
Oh, yeah. Mitchell and Allen had a bit of a collision in the middle of the court that ended with Allen bouncing his noggin on the wood. Happened in Allen’s second road game after he returned from being suspended for another tripping incident.
Allen had nothing but love for Mitchell.
“He’s a great player and an even better competitor,” Allen said. “He’s one of the guys that’s going to go after you.
“On defense, he attacks the ball. On offense, he’s dangerous. When he gets hot, he can start hitting things off the dribble. Extremely athletic, too, so around the basket he’s finishing well.
“That’s going to be a fun matchup for me and the other guards to go against him just because how good he is.”
Ken Pomeroy’s computer formula picks Louisville to win by two. The point spread in Las Vegas is Louisville by one.
Here are two things to consider: Coach K played five guys at least 31 minutes Wednesday and none were taller than 6 feet 8. Small ball. Smaller rotation.
Louisville has more length and strength around the glass. The Cards are also a deeper team that will be matched against a squad asked to play after a 22-hour break.
“We’ve told our guys, just play one game,” Krzyzewski said. “Play one game, then play another game. Then, if we’re fortunate enough to play another game, then we’ll try to figure it out, but not the pace.
“That’s just the way it is. We have to play again tomorrow at 2 or 2:15 or 2:22, whatever it is, so we’ll play. At least in the NCAA Tournament, you get a day in between. So playing like this, might help us get better.”
Should be some game. Even if it isn’t a rematch.
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