Duke doesn’t lose consecutive games very often and the third-ranked Blue Devils figure to have a significant chore to prevent it from happening this week.
There will be a visit from No. 11 Louisville on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., where Duke suddenly has concerns about depth.
“Like it has been all year, the next guy has got to step up,” Duke guard Tre Jones said. “It ends up coming down to all of us.”
This will be the only meeting of the regular season between the two teams with the most first-place votes in the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason poll.
Duke (15-2, 5-1 ACC) hasn’t lost consecutive games since February 2018. The Blue Devils are coming off Tuesday night’s 79-72 setback at Clemson, marking the end to a nine-game winning streak.
“We tried to do everything we could,” Duke guard Cassius Stanley said. “We just had a slow start and they were a confident team.”
Louisville (14-3, 5-1), riding a three-game winning streak, figures to be in a good mindset for this showdown. This will be the third straight road game for the Cardinals, who won 73-68 in overtime Tuesday night at Pittsburgh.
“It’s not easy to go on the road in conference play,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “I don’t care what conference you’re in. … (The things we did to finish) hopefully give us confidence in those moments in the future.”
Duke’s depth took a hit because of hand surgery for freshman forward Wendell Moore Jr. and then a sprained ankle suffered this week in practice by swingman Joey Baker, whose status for Saturday is unclear. That altered the amount of playing time among the Blue Devils for the Clemson game.
“Up until the last couple games, we haven’t had guys in the 30s (for minutes played),” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But things change and you have to adapt.”
The loss at Clemson might have caught some of the younger Duke players by surprise.
“When you’re in conference, people are hungry,” Krzyzewski said.
Duke and Louisville have both spent time with the No. 1 national ranking this season. The Cardinals slipped, losing three times in a five-game stretch.
Louisville has the ACC’s leading scorer, with forward Jordan Nwora averaging 20.4 points per game. He has led the team’s scoring in all except one game this season.
Steven Enoch, at 10.8 points per game, is the only other Louisville player averaging in double figures. Freshman guard David Johnson continues to work into an expanded role, and he racked up a season-high 11 points while logging 20 minutes at Pittsburgh.
“Had he been in a rhythm and never gotten hurt (in the preseason), I think he’d probably be a few steps ahead of where he is now,” Mack said. “So that’s the rub of it. We’re playing big-time competitive games and we’re on the road in the ACC. We’re trying to win, but I think David’s ceiling is extremely high.”
Duke’s top scorer and rebounder is freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. (17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game). Carey has reached the 20-point mark in eight games this season. Three other Blue Devils have posted 10.6 points per game or more as Duke scores 83.1 points a game.
Last season the Blue Devils and Cardinals met only once, and Duke produced a huge second-half comeback to win by two points at Louisville. Counting one ACC Tournament meeting, the Blue Devils have won five of seven meetings with Louisville since the Cardinals joined the conference.
–Field Level Media