It doesn’t take much to bring up Duke when talking men’s college basketball. The two go together like Plexiglas and backboards.
Bullet points about the Blue Devils program have not been in short supply this week.
There has been big news off the floor. And record-breaking news on it. And it all was bubbling in the same pot Tuesday when Duke was at Louisville.
On the court, Duke trailed the Cardinals by 23 points with 9:58 to play before finally deciding to chop at the tree. Sounding like the sage he is, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski seized upon the opportunity to tell his kids they would win the game.
“I did think we could play better,” he said. “I was positive, but I don’t know, belief. … At that point, I may have been telling them a lie.”
Really, who are we to doubt Coach K? Look at the media guide: 39 years at Duke, 1,122 wins. Whatever you say, sir. It’s fine with us.
But you must admit, the Cameron Crazies were probably in their here-we-go-again state of mind, harkening back to the 2013 Elite Eight when the Cardinals dumped Duke by 22 points.
And then the earth shifted.
If you were keeping score at home, you already know this, but Duke still trailed by 19 points with 6:43 remaining and by seven with 4:05 remaining
Then freshman Cam Reddish took over. He tied the game with a three with 1:28 to play and put Duke ahead with 14 seconds to play with a couple of free throws.
When all was said and done, Duke emerged with a 71-69 win that will keep it No. 2 in the nation and insure Tennessee continues looking nervously over its shoulder.
“I think our mentality changed,” Reddish said. “We didn’t want to go home with a loss. We had to fight for Duke, just give it our all for the name on our chest.”
Off the court, Krzyzewski’s bliss was muted when he decided to comment about reports one of his former stars, Corey Maggette, may have raped a young woman, Meredith Watson, on the Duke campus in 1999 while playing for his program.
“I had no knowledge,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “At that level, for that serious of an accusation, it’s always university-level. Always. Our university will handle everything, and that’s what should happen. Coach shouldn’t do anything with that.
“I have no knowledge of it, but I’m not the one — our university should do all that, and rightfully so. That’s the level where it needs to happen.”
Of course, this is a story that unfurled after a first rape allegation by Watson against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was made. Watson said she did not originally pursue a case against Fairfax because Duke officials had urged her to keep quite about what happened there.
“I have never sexually assaulted anyone in my life and I completely and categorically deny any such charge,” Maggette said in the statement issued through a spokesperson.
Duke is looking into the accusation against Maggette, who played only one year for the Blue Devils before a long career in the NBA ending with his retirement in 2013.
“We are in the process of gathering information to determine what policies and procedures were in place during the time period in which these events are alleged to have occurred, and whether they were activated and followed,” Duke said in a statement. “We are not able to provide further information or comment on any individual at this time.”
In a way, this provides another example of how real life often mingles with the playpen of sports. At one moment, the program is elated over the marvelous win. At another, its asked to soberly comment about an issue it would rather not deal with.
What’s certain is, while Duke chases another national championship, with one of the great freshmen classes ever assembled, the character of its program will be debated as the facts of the case against Maggette being to emerge.
In terms of basketball, the Blue Devils had staged only one bigger second-half rally in program history. They missed 15 of their first 17 shots in the second half and then gripped their hosts in a defensive vice to score 15 points off turnovers in the final 10 minutes.
“They probably were more deserving of winning, but the last 10 mins we were spectacular,” Krzyzewski said.
Reddish was aided by freshman Zion – The Next Lebron – Williamson, whose 27-point, 12-rebound epic was just his latest audition for the first overall NBA draft pick.
“It just took us playing hard,” Williamson told ESPN after the game. “They were playing harder than us. Louisville’s a very great team, but we just had to play harder than them.”
Duke tied the ACC record for the biggest rally in league history, Virginia’s comeback against them 24 years ago. In 1993,Virginia Commonwealth, fought back from 26 down with 9:26 to play at South Florida and won in overtime.