Boston (AP) — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski watched as all three teams ahead of the Blue Devils in The Associated Press Top 25 lost this week. Then he came to Chestnut Hill and nearly joined them.
“Nothing about today was easy,” Krzyzewski said Sunday night after No. 4 Duke overcame early and late deficits to beat Boston College 62-61. “These are games anybody can lose, and throughout the country everybody is losing them. Our guys found a way to win against a team that was also deserving to win, so that’s a real good thing.”
Breitbart Sports still ranks Indiana as the No. 1 team in the country despite a loss at Illinois. A last second loss to a Top 50 team on the road (Illinois) was more than offset by the rarest of feats for any team, a double digit win on the road against a top 10 team. That combination of wins is more impressive than Duke’s narrow road win against a Boston College team that is not among the 100 best teams in the country and the impressive win against home, which was at Duke. However, voters would be justified in selecting Duke, as well as a Florida school (Miami or Florida) ahead of Indiana.
Mason Plumlee left open the option of picking Duke over the other three with 19 points and 10 rebounds, hitting the game-winning free throw with 26 seconds left to lead Duke (21-2, 8-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) to its fifth consecutive win. Seth Curry added 18 points for the Blue Devils.
Olivier Hanlan scored 20 points for Boston College, which led by five points with 2:15 left and had a chance to win it after Plumlee made one of two free throws.
After a timeout, Hanlan dribbled down the clock before pulling up for an open shot inside the foul line that was wide. Ryan Anderson grabbed the rebound but lost control as he fell to the floor and the ball popped out of bounds as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
“When you get a defensive stop, it’s five guys playing as one,” Krzyzewski said. “For me, there’s no better feeling than to win a game that way. And you see them on the floor and that red light goes off, and its pretty cool. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
Plumlee celebrated on his back as the Blue Devils improved their chance to move up from the No. 4 ranking after losses to the top three teams: Indiana, Florida and Michigan. The Blue Devils have been ranked No. 1 five weeks during the regular season, the last on Jan. 21.
“It’s crazy to watch, but it’s very entertaining,” Curry said. “We’ve been the No. 1 team a few times this season. It’s not something we’re shooting for; we’re just trying to win games.”
The Eagles (10-13, 2-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered the day tied for last in the conference, but they jumped to an eight-point lead midway through the first half and held onto a tie at halftime. Duke quickly erased the deficit as the second half began and opened a six-point lead but then went cold again, scoring just one free throw over a 4 1-2 minute span and allowing BC to make it 61-56 with 2:15 to play.
But Quinn Cook made his third 3-pointer of the game, then Plumlee hit a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left to tie it 61-all. BC’s Joe Rahon put a 3-point attempt off the top of the backboard and Plumlee was brought down hard as he grabbed the rebound.
The Blue Devils forward missed the first foul shot but made the second to make it a one-point lead. Hanlan faked the drive and pulled up, gaining space from Rasheed Sulaimon and a clean look at the rim, but was way off.
“He takes another freshman off the dribble, he gets a pretty good look,” BC coach Steve Donahue said. “He normally makes those shots. I don’t think he was nervous. He wants to be really good. Let’s be honest: the reason you can play with Duke is because of Olivier Hanlan. I just thought he played great.”
With Boston’s Logan Airport closed by the blizzard most of Friday and Saturday, Duke changed its travel plans and flew into the city late Sunday morning. Fans dug themselves out to watch the Eagles play their best game of a season that includes losses to Harvard and Bryant. BC had lost six of seven, including a 22-point loss to No. 8 Miami on Tuesday.
Duke went scoreless for the first five minutes of the game and trailed by as many as eight points, 13-5, in the first half. It led 21-14 before scoring 11 of the next 14 points, taking its first lead of the game on Plumlee’s three-point play with 1 minute left in the first half.
It was 27-all at the half before Curry and Cook hit 3-pointers and Curry followed with a four-point play that gave Duke a 39-34 lead.
Breitbart Sports contributed to this report.