PROVIDENCE—“People always believe in miracles at this time and don’t ever believe they’re out of it. What that produces is miracles,” Mike Kryzewski told reporters after Duke’s 71-64 victory over Yale.
Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard combined for seven of Duke’s nine first half three pointers, ending Yale’s historic NCAA tourney run in the first twenty minutes on Saturday. Well, at least until Yale created a two-possession game with 1:46 left in the second half. Duke later saw their 27-point first half advantage slip to three with under a minute remaining after Yale forward Justin Sears knocked in teammate Brandon Sherrod’s missed free throw.
“I don’t think they tipped it in, we tipped it in.” Kryzewski told reporters in Providence.
Call it an old fashioned three point-play or just plain luck. Either way one slices it, the opening stanza favored Duke and the latter Yale.
“Kind of a tale of two halves. Our guys out to a rough start and Duke started out on fire. We didn’t keep our composure 100 percent and we got it back in the second half. Our guys fought,” Yale head coach James Jones told reporters after the game.
That Yale orchestrated a heroic second-half comeback while making just three second-half perimeter shots warrants a miracle tag. Since the inception of the arc, rarely does David take down Goliath when shooting seventeen percent overall from three.
Each team shot 23 threes. But Duke hit eleven and Yale just four. But Yale’s frontcourt emerged with 24 second-half points, none of them from three, and most of them within five feet of the basket.
Fittingly, Yale’s second half mentality assumed the personality of their mascot.
“We did pound the glass very well and that’s what led our comeback,” Sears told reporters.
The Bulldogs annihilated Duke on the offensive glass and subsequently netted 21 second-chance points. Forwards Sherrod and Sears combined for 10 offensive rebounds and 18 total. Yale edge Duke 42-28 on the glass while grabbing 20 offensive rebounds to Duke’s five.
Eleven-thousand fans believed Yale could overcome a 23 point halftime deficit, albeit without the sharpshooting of Makai Mason (2-12 from the field).
After giving up a corner three five minutes into the second half, Kryzewski called timeout then smashed his chair into the ground as his team filed to its bench. Still leading by 16, K’s emotions hardly matched the Blue Devils’ six-possession cushion. Moments later when Mason stared down the obvious pass, then rifled the basketball to a rim-running Sherrod for an and 1, Kryzewski appeared prophetic. A Sears dunk and then layup on the following possession eventually cut the lead to just seven with 11:38 remaining.
But Yale never created a winnable two possession game until the 1:46 mark of the second half. While the Bulldogs teetered within seven and ten points, unwanted turnovers on one end and Brandon Ingram’s 14 second-half points on the other hindered a miraculous comeback.
When Yale converted four straight free throws via loose ball fouls, Duke led Yale 65-61 with 1:08 to play. Three straight Yale fouls awarded 88 percent FT shooter Luke Kennard two seemingly automatic free throws: 67-61 Duke.
After Yale declined a three on the other end with less than a minute to play, Sherrod drew a foul and made his first free throw. When Sears tipped in Sherrod’s miss, Yale cut the lead to 67-64 with 33 seconds left. With an ounce of hope, Yale fouled Ingram, a below-average free throw shooter, now predicted as the consensus number one pick in this year’s NBA draft.
Yet Duke thwarted underdog heroics yesterday when Duke assistant Jon Scheyer made Ingram shoot 100 free throws on the same basket during walk thru.
Ingram, who, according to Coach K, “made 67 in a row,” sunk both, sealing Duke’s trip to the Sweet 16.