Down 43–37 to UNC-Wilmington just seven seconds before halftime, defending national champion Duke got a three-pointer from star freshman Brandon Ingram to close the first half and then took the lead for good on a pair of Ingram free throws just three minutes in to the second half. The Blue Devils, the No. 4 seed in the West Regional, went up by 10 for the first time with 13 minutes remaining but could never quite put away the CAA champion Seahawks, who trailed by five and had three shots to get even closer with under a minute to go but missed all three. Duke then hit three free throws in the final seconds to win 93–85 and avoid losing to a team seeded 13th or below for the third time in five years.
Why it matters
Duke took full advantage of the fact that UNC-Wilmington was one of the smallest teams in the field, ranking 274th nationally in average height. Marshall Plumlee, a 7-foot senior, set a career high with 23 points on 9 of 10 shooting (most coming on wide-open dunks), and also recorded eight rebounds and three blocks before fouling out with 2:01 remaining. Ingram, 6'9", added 20 points and nine rebounds. If Plumlee can provide that kind of performance going forward, the Blue Devils will be a threat to return to the Final Four.
On Saturday Duke will face the winner of Thursday’s second game in Providence between No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Yale. The Blue Devils beat the Bears in the Elite Eight in 2010 en route to coach Mike Krzyzewski’s fourth NCAA title. Yale has not played in the NCAA tournament since 1962.