Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 63, #5 Utah 57

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 27th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.

Justise Winslow Starred In Duke's Sweet Sixteen Victory Friday Night (USA Today Images)

Justise Winslow Starred In Duke’s Sweet Sixteen Victory Friday Night (USA Today Images)

  1. Duke’s Dominant Defense. The Blue Devils made their way to Houston largely on the backs of a prolific offense but it was a disruptive defensive effort that fueled Friday night’s victory. In the Utah backcourt, Duke extended pressure and forced 15 Utes’ turnovers; when Utah managed to settle into the half-court offense they found the going no easier, as they made just 34.6 percent of their field goal attempts, including only 4-of-16 from behind the arc. Over the course of the last two months, an improving Duke defense has often gone unnoticed while the hyper-efficient offense has whizzed on the other end. Today, however, there is no chance it goes overlooked — this was a varied and dynamic defensive effort against a good offensive team that earned Duke a trip to the Elite Eight. If similar efforts continue, that defense could take them even further.
  2. Delon Wright Never Gets Going. Utah’s indispensable senior star was whistled for an extremely questionable third foul with 4:59 to play in the first half, relegating him to cheerleading duties for the remainder of the period. In 13 first-half minutes, he managed only two points (on 1-of-5 field-goal shooting) without an assist. Wright was far more involved in the second half – he finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three steals – but his final contributions were still insufficient for the Utes to seriously challenge Duke. He missed 10 of his 14 field goal attempts, turned the ball over as many times as he set up teammates for buckets (two), and generally failed to penetrate the Duke defense. In totality, Wright’s senior season was spectacular – he was THE catalyst for Utah’s revival. But on Friday night, much like he was in other games down the stretch, Wright just didn’t measure up to the lofty standards his early brilliance helped set.
  3. Okafor Was Contained, But No Problem For Duke. Utah did a good job containing Duke’s freshman All-American, limiting Okafor to 3-of-6 shooting from the field while forcing him into four turnovers. Jakob Poeltl and Dallin Bachynski took turns as the primary defender on Okafor, but the Utes also brought a double-team immediately upon any Okafor touch, which served well in minimizing his impact. The good news for Duke: The Blue Devils learned they could win without a standout performance from Okafor. The bad news: Future opponents could replicate the Utes defensive plan of attack to make life difficult for him. Thinking to Sunday: Will Gonzaga leave Karnowski and Sabonis to battle Okafor one-on-one?

Star of the Game. Justise Winslow, Duke. Winslow’s stellar first-weekend play carried over to tonight as the Duke freshman again stuffed the stat sheet. His final line: 21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. It wasn’t all good for Winslow – Brekkott Chapman beat Winslow for a layup while he was celebrating a made three-point field goal, much to the chagrin of Coach K – but the versatile wing again proved his immense value on Friday night. In an unusual twist, it was Winslow who hit all three of the Duke three-point field goals, finding the range on a night where teammates Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones could not. Fearing his athleticism, Utah dared him to shoot perimeter jumpers – Winslow made them pay.


  • “I felt like we could have won that game.” – Delon Wright, Utah senior point guard.
  • “We needed to see shots go in – it gives you that little oomph… We didn’t have that facet of the game until the very end. We didn’t have that good feeling.” –Larry Krystkowiak, Utah head coach.
  • “Their double-team of Jah[lil Okafor] was great. It just about took him out of the game.” –Mike Krzyewski, Duke head coach on Utah defense of Jahlil Okafor.
  • “Coach never treated us like freshman. There was never a moment where we felt like freshman.” –Justise Winslow, Duke freshman forward on his Duke experience.

Sights & Sounds. The energy level in NRG Stadium definitely picked up for this game, with Duke supporters making their presence known. The uptick in excitement didn’t manifest itself in made jump shots, as much like the first game, both teams struggled with shooting the ball: Utah and Duke combined to make just 7-of-26 three-point attempts. The lower bowl was mostly full, but thousands of empty seats filled the sections above, making for another relatively tranquil Sweet Sixteen atmosphere. Perhaps the most invigorated moment came midway through the second half when the Duke faithful serenaded one of their superb freshman with a “Just-ise Win-slow” chant. Dear NCAA: Can we not play basketball in football stadiums anymore?

What’s Next? Duke will advance to play Gonzaga in the South regional final on Sunday afternoon. Neither team filled it up offensively tonight, but Sunday should bring points and prettier basketball: Both the Zags and Blue Devils entered the night among the top five nationally in offensive efficiency. On the other side, a proud season ends. Utah finishes at 26-9 after reaching its first Sweet Sixteen in nearly a decade. Even with Delon Wright departing, the future is still very bright for the Utes.

BHayes (244 Posts)

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