Duke trailed Louisville by 23 points with just over nine minutes left. Zion Williamson had four fouls, his supporting cast had gone cold from three-point range, and the No. 16 Cardinals seemed certain to pull the upset.
It only set the stage for arguably the wildest comeback this college basketball season has produced to date.
Duke stormed back to stun Louisville and steal a 71-69 victory in Kentucky. The Blue Devils just gave Mike Krzyzewski the biggest second half comeback of his career.
This is how Duke pulled off this ridiculous comeback against the Cardinals.
Zion Williamson reinforced he’s one of the best college basketball players ever
Williamson checked back into the game with four fouls with 9:13 left in the game. At the time, Duke was trailing 59-36.
Duke’s comeback happened because Williamson was a wrecking ball on both ends of the court. He was a key part of Duke’s full-court trapping defense, forcing several turnovers in crunch-time to help the Blue Devils quickly turn defense into offense. There’s nothing you can do when Williamson gets the ball in the open court. This was just another reminder of why he’s one of the most efficient scorers in the country:
Duke rolling now— Ⓜ️arcusD ᴿᴵᴾ ᴹᵃʳᶜᵘˢᴰ² (@_MarcusD3_) February 13, 2019
Zion and 1 pic.twitter.com/oCXEqTf8oz
Williamson finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor. Zion was especially great at the foul line in crunch time, hitting 8-of-9 free throws on the night to help ice the victory.
This was a superstar performance in every way. Zion is the best player in the country, and it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say he’s one of the best talents college basketball has ever seen. Duke has the highest ceiling in the country because he’s on the team.
Duke’s full court defense scrambled Louisville in crunch-time
Louisville’s half court offense was cooking for the most of the night. Duke knew its only chance was to turn up the pressure defensively by trapping full court.
It helps that Duke has two of the best defenders in the country in Williamson and Tre Jones, plus a pair of long, physical wings in R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. Duke’s defense was exceptional in the closing minutes, forcing turnovers at will and finishing without a problem in transition on the other end:
Last year, Duke had to play a zone because its freshman superteam couldn’t handle man-to-man. Coach K has an all new squad this year, and this one is so, so much scarier on the defensive end.
Cam Reddish showed off NBA shot-making
Reddish has had an underwhelming freshman season playing in the shadow of Williamson and R.J. Barrett, but he’s still a top 10 — and maybe even top five — NBA draft pick this year in his own right. Reddish showed why as Duke made its comeback, knocking down two huge threes to close the deficit.
Louisville fan reaction after Cam Reddish 3 pointer pic.twitter.com/xJ176JR022— Ⓜ️arcusD ᴿᴵᴾ ᴹᵃʳᶜᵘˢᴰ² (@_MarcusD3_) February 13, 2019
This one was for the tie:
Reddish 3 pointer now ties it pic.twitter.com/2Jv6CjCfLv— Ⓜ️arcusD ᴿᴵᴾ ᴹᵃʳᶜᵘˢᴰ² (@_MarcusD3_) February 13, 2019
On a night when Barrett again struggled to score efficiently (13 points on 14 shots), Reddish made pro shots late to help give Duke the win. Reddish finished with 22 points on 7-of-19 shooting in the win.
Just look at Louisville’s win probability
Louisville was up 23 points over Duke— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 13, 2019
...then lost. pic.twitter.com/M9LuINOymB
Well, that happened quickly.
What a comeback for Duke. The Blue Devils just hope they don’t find themselves in this position again come March.