In the first half of Sunday’s West Regional second round game, Duke looked every bit the power conference heavyweight that it is, using a 34–6 run to take a 27–point lead over Ivy League champion Yale, fresh off its first ever NCAA tournament win. The fourth-seeded Blue Devils still led by 22 at intermission. But in the second half, the 12th-seeded Bulldogs bit back, dominating the glass and outscoring the defending national champions 15–0 to get within seven with 11 minutes remaining. They eventually got within three in the final minute, but Duke made just enough free throws down the stretch to hold on for a 71–64 win that sends the Blue Devils to the Sweet 16.
Why it matters
For the second straight game, Duke got a battle from a double-digit seed. After trailing by as many as six points in Thursday’s first-round game to No. 13 UNC Wilmington, when they didn’t put the game away until the final minute before winning by eight, the Blue Devils appeared to be on cruise control against Yale. Instead, they instead had to battle to avoid one of the biggest collapses in NCAA tournament history. With the increased quality of competition they’ll face from here on out, they will have to play well for 40 minutes if they expect to reach another Final Four. The good news for Duke is that after making just 4 of 15 from three-point range against the Seahawks, Mike Krzyzewski’s team made 10 of 18 in the first half on Sunday. When the Blue Devils shoot like that they are extremely tough to beat. That’s even more true when both Ingram (25 points) and sophomore guard Grayson Allen (29 points) are playing well, as they did in combining for 54 points against the Bulldogs.
Duke faces the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 1 Oregon and No. 8 Saint Joseph’s in the Sweet 16 next Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.