Louisville’s big lead was all but gone, leaving the 11th-ranked Cardinals clinging to a slim margin while the fans packed into Duke’s famously hostile home arena in Durham, N.C., were roaring at ear-ringing levels.
Chris Mack’s squad proved they were tough enough to punch back in those critical moments to secure a huge win against a fellow Atlantic Coast Conference heavyweight.
Freshman David Johnson scored a season-high 19 points, and the Cardinals hung on down the stretch to beat No. 3 Blue Devils 79-73 on Saturday night, winning a key matchup in the league’s regular-season title chase.
“We never got rattled,” said Malik Williams, who had 12 points and a couple of big late-game plays. “Things got tough for us, they tied the game, we kept playing, kept fighting.”
“Fighting” is probably a good word for it too. It was a physical game with plenty of players bumping each other to the floor and powering into the paint through contact, one that left Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski calling it “the most physical game we’ve been involved with in years, really.”
The Cardinals — who improbably blew a 23-point lead in the final 10 minutes of a home loss to Duke last year — hung on despite finding themselves in a tight finish after leading by 15 in the first half and 10 at halftime.
Leading 71-70, Louisville (15-3, 6-1 ACC) got two free throws from Dwayne Sutton with 3:11 remaining and then had five consecutive defensive stops during the critical game-clinching sequence. That included a missed drive and an airballed three-pointer from Duke freshman Cassius Stanley, who was otherwise was the best player on the floor for either team on the way to season highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Williams added two free throws with 16 seconds left to make it 75-70 and followed immediately with a transition dunk off a turnover. It was a sequence that all but ensured the Cardinals would claim the only regular-season meeting between the teams, not to mention put themselves in a tie with No. 9 Florida State atop the league standings.
The Blue Devils (15-3, 5-2) shot 37% for the game and made only six of 25 three-point tries. The struggles included freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. finishing with just 12 points after sitting a long stretch of the second half with four fouls.
at No. 7 San Diego State 68, Nevada 55: Yanni Wetzell had 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for the Aztecs (19-0, 8-0 Mountain West), who came out hot in the second half and defeated the Wolf Pack (11-8, 4-3) in San Diego to remain the nation’s only undefeated team.
Malachi Flynn scored 14 points for San Diego State, and Jordan Schakel had 12.
The Aztecs pulled within one win of the best opening streak in school history, a 20-0 run led by Kawhi Leonard in 2010-11. That team reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history and finished a school-best 34-3.
Jalen Harris scored 19 points for Nevada. The Wolf Pack shot 14.7% in the second half and 28.1% for the game.
With fellow big man Nathan Mensah missing his sixth straight game with a respiratory ailment, Wetzell had his best game with SDSU.
“I was just that much more extra aggressive,” said Wetzell, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt. “We were down a couple at half, and I knew that as a fifth-year senior I had to step up and try to lead these guys a little. I was just trying to be as aggressive as I can on the boards.”
at No. 1 Gonzaga 92, Brigham Young 69: Killian Tillie had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Bulldogs (20-1, 6-0 West Coast) beat the Cougars (14-6, 3-2) in Spokane, Wash., for their 12th consecutive win.
The Zags stretched their home winning streak to 34 in a row, tops in the country.
Gonzaga closed out its sixth consecutive win against BYU without leading scorer Filip Petrusev, who went down hard early in the second half and was helped off the floor with what appeared to be a leg injury.
T.J. Haws scored 17 points and Jake Toolson had 16 for the Cougars. BYU played without leading scorer and rebounder Yoeli Childs, who has missed four games with a finger injury.
No. 2 Baylor 75, at Oklahoma State 68: Freddie Gillespie and Jared Butler each scored 17 points, and the Bears (15-1, 5-0 Big 12 Conference) beat the Cowboys (9-8, 0-5) in Stillwater, Okla., for their 14th straight victory.
Baylor overcame a 12-point deficit in the last 14 minutes. Devonte Bandoo scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
Oklahoma State has lost five in a row. Isaac Likekele had 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Cowboys. Cameron McGriff also scored 16 points.
at Florida 69, No. 4 Auburn 47: Omar Payne had the best game of his college career, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Gators (12-5, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) to a rout of the Tigers (15-2, 3-2) in Gainesville, Fla.
Payne, a freshman from Kissimmee, Fla., was widely considered an afterthought in Florida’s highly touted recruiting class. Against Auburn, he looked like a future lottery pick.
The 6-foot-10 forward dominated in the paint, scoring on tipins, putbacks and layups, and created a mismatch nightmare for the Tigers. His three-point play put the Gators up by 14 with a little more than four minutes to play.
Danjel Purifoy was the only player in double figures for Auburn, which shot 25.5% from the field. He had 10 points.
at DePaul 79, No. 5 Butler 66: Paul Reed scored 23 points on eight-for-nine shooting, lifting the Blue Demons (13-5, 1-4 Big East Conference) to a victory over the Bulldogs (15-3, 3-2) in Chicago.
DePaul knocked off a top-five team for the first time since beating No. 5 Kansas on Dec. 2, 2006. Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 20 points, and freshman Romeo Weems finished with 11.
Butler trailed by double digits for the entire second half of its second straight loss. Kamar Baldwin led the Bulldogs with 16 points, and Jordan Tucker had 13.
No. 6 Kansas 66, at Texas 57: Devon Dotson returned from a hip injury to score 21 points, including the final seven of the game for the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) in their win over the Longhorns (12-5, 2-3) in Austin, Texas.
Dotson made a long three-pointer with 2:49 to play, then closed out the victory with four straight free throws in the final 39 seconds. Udoka Azubuike added 17 points for Kansas, which closed the game with a 12-3 run.
Jericho Sims scored 20 points for Texas.
No. 9 Florida State 83, at Miami 79 (OT): The Seminoles (16-2, 6-1 ACC) forced 24 turnovers, including three in a row in overtime, and rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final 4:33 of regulation to defeat the Hurricanes (10-7, 2-5) in Coral Gables, Fla., and earn their ninth consecutive victory.
Sophomore Devin Vassell set a career high for the second consecutive game by leading Florida State with 23 points while adding 11 rebounds and five assists. His two free throws with six seconds left sealed the win.
M.J. Walker had 19 points for Florida State. Chris Lykes scored 24 points for Miami but also had six turnovers.
No. 10 Kentucky 73, at Arkansas 66: The Wildcats kept their composure after coach John Calipari was ejected, holding off the Razorbacks for the win in Fayetteville, Ark.
Nick Richards had 17 points and nine rebounds, leading a balanced effort for Kentucky. Mason Jones scored 19 points for Arkansas, which has dropped nine straight in the series.
The game was tied at 44 with 8:19 left in the second half when Calipari became upset after forward EJ Montgomery was whistled for an offensive foul for an illegal screen. He received two technical fouls as the crowd cheered wildly.
Jones then made three free throws to give the Razorbacks their first lead since the opening minutes. But the Wildcats stepped up their defensive effort and put together a 17-2 run.
at Kansas State 84, No. 12 West Virginia 68: Cartier Diarra scored 25 points and Xavier Sneed had 16 in Manhattan, Kan., leading the Wildcats (8-9, 1-4) past the Mountaineers (14-3, 3-2) for their first Big 12 win this season.
DaJuan Gordon scored a career-high 15 points for Kansas State, which shot 59% (29 for 49) from the field and led by 23.
West Virginia committed 18 turnovers. Miles McBride and Chase Harler each scored 11 points, and Gabe Osabuohein had 10.
at No. 14 Villanova 61, Connecticut 55: Jermaine Samuels scored 19 points, powering the Wildcats (14-3) ahead for good in a win over the Huskies (10-7) in Philadelphia.
Samuels converted a three-point play with 2:51 left for a 52-51 lead and then buried a three with 31 seconds remaining for a four-point lead that clinched another tight one for Villanova. The Wildcats have won 10 of 11.
Collin Gillespie scored 12 points, and Villanova made 11 of 23 three-point tries. Christian Vital led Connecticut with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Houston 65, at No. 16 Wichita State 54: Fabian White scored 14 points, part of a balanced attack for the Cougars (14-4, 4-1) in an American Athletic Conference win over the Shockers (15-3, 3-2) in Wichita, Kan.
DeJon Jarreau had 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for Houston, which is tied with Tulsa atop the conference standings.
Wichita State lost its second straight game. Tyson Etienne led the Shockers with 10 points.
at No. 17 Maryland 57, Purdue 50: Jalen Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Terrapins (14-4, 4-3 Big Ten) remained unbeaten at home with a victory over the Boilermakers (10-8, 3-4) in College Park, Md.
Maryland scored the game’s first nine points, led by 16 at halftime and managed to stay in front after Purdue closed to 52-47 with six minutes left.
Freshman Donta Scott scored 13 points for the Terps, now 11-0 at home. Maryland was coming off two straight losses on the road, where it is 0-4.
Nojel Eastern scored 14 points for Purdue.
No. 18 Seton Hall 82, at St. John’s 79: Myles Powell scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half, and the Pirates (14-4, 6-0 Big East) extended their winning streak to eight games by beating the Red Storm (12-7, 1-5) in New York.
Quincy McKnight added 20 points and 7-foot-2 Romaro Gill had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks for Seton Hall. Mustapha Heron scored 18 for St. John’s, and Josh Roberts had 16 points and eight rebounds.
With a fast-break layup early in the second half, Powell became the fifth Pirates player to reach 2,000 career points, joining Terry Dehere, Nick Werkman, Jeremy Hazell and Greg Tynes.
at Penn State 90, No. 20 Ohio State 76: Lamar Stevens scored 14 of his 24 points in the second half, and the Nittany Lions (13-5, 3-4 Big Ten) beat the Buckeyes (12-6, 2-5) in State College, Pa.
Myreon Jones added 20 points for Penn State, which snapped a three-game losing streak.
Duane Washington Jr. had 20 points and Kaleb Wesson scored 19 for Ohio State, which lost for the fifth time in six games.
at No. 23 Texas Tech 72, Iowa State 52: Kyler Edwards had 22 points coming off the highest-scoring game of his career, and the Red Raiders (12-5, 3-2 Big 12) pulled away to defeat the Cyclones (8-9, 1-4) in Lubbock, Texas.
The sophomore was five for six from three-point range, making two during an 18-2 second-half run, after scoring 24 points in a victory at Kansas State that stopped a two-game skid.
Davide Moretti had 17 points for Texas Tech. Iowa State missed its first 15 attempts from three-point range and finished three for 22.
at No. 24 Illinois 75, Northwestern 71: Trent Frazier made four three-pointers on his way to 16 points, leading the Illini (13-4, 5-2 Big Ten) to a win over the Wildcats (6-11, 1-6) in Champaign, Ill.
Illinois had five players in double figures. Ayo Dosunmu scored 14 points and Giorgi Bezhanishvili 13. Robbie Beran led Northwestern with 17 points.
at No. 25 Creighton 78, Providence 74: Marcus Zegarowski hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left, sending the Bluejays (14-5, 3-3 Big East) to the victory over the Friars (11-8, 4-2) in Omaha.
Ty-Shon Alexander scored 24 points for Creighton. Providence’s David Duke had 24 of his career-high 36 points in the second half.