Duke Exits NCAA After Losing To Tennessee 65-52

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Red-hot Duke finally met its match in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament, losing 65-52 to a hard-nosed Tennessee Volunteers team in a big-time matchup.

Coming into the tournament, Duke had won 9 games in a row, including the ACC Tournament, and seemed to be firing on all cylinders. That continued with a rout of Oral Roberts in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. On this Saturday afternoon in Orlando, however, it all came to a screeching halt.

Olivier Nkamhoua led all scorers with 27 points for the Volunteers. Duke trailed by 6 at the half, and, Nkamhoua took over about midway through the second frame, scoring 13 in a row at a crucial point in the game. Santiago Vescovi tossed in 14 points with some perimeter sharpshooting.

On the one hand, Duke simply couldn’t keep up with enough offense. Tyrese Procter led the Blue Devils with 16 points, with nearly all of them coming in the 2nd half. Kyle Filipowksi had 13 despite taking a big hit to the face in a scrum in the paint. Jeremy Roach had 13 points as well. For a large portion of the game, Duke couldn’t get anyone going outside of Roach. His strong efforts kept his team in the game, but it wasn’t enough. His fourth foul early in the second half really derailed any chance of Duke gaining enough momentum to grab the lead.

Kyle F. face bleeding
That’s definitely gonna leave a mark.

On the other hand, this was expected to be a tough, defensive, grind-it-out type of game, and that’s how it turned out. Analysts expected defense and rebounding were paramount to success for both teams. Tennessee simply did a better job than Duke and showed themselves to be the tougher team. Duke was one of the leading offensive rebounding teams all season long, with excellent size at nearly every position, but they only managed six offensive rebounds for the game. They lost the overall rebounding battle, 34-30.

Depth may have played a part in that. Duke went with its starters for most of the game, with only spot substitutions by Jaylen Blakes and Jacob Grandison. Tennessee played an eight or nine-man rotation consistently all game long, and Duke simply looked worn down by the end.

So, we’re at the end of the road for Jon Scheyer’s inaugural season. He managed to get the Blue Devils playing pretty good basketball towards the end of the year, but overall had an up-and-down campaign. Health played a factor. Nearly all of the Duke’s losses came when the team wasn’t at full strength. That said, this team has a ton of talent, and some may view the season as a disappointment overall.

Will Scheyer and the coaching staff manage to build on this year and maintain its prominence on the national stage? We’ll have to wait and see. Duke will undoubtedly lose a lot of players to the NBA draft this summer, but another strong recruiting class is waiting to come on campus and show their skills. The amount of continuity they have to next year with returning players could make or break year two for the Jon Scheyer show.

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