Duke Blue Devils Fall to Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

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The college basketball season isn’t even a month old, and yet it feels like so much has happened already. For the third time this season, the number one team in the country has fallen. It appeared as though the Duke Blue Devils might hold onto the top ranking for a while. However, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks ensured that wouldn’t be the case, marching into Cameron Indoor Stadium and defeating Duke 85-83 in overtime Tuesday night.

Duke Blue Devils Lose to Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Stephen F. Austin sent shockwaves through the college basketball landscape by taking down Duke Tuesday night. The Lumberjacks recovered a loose ball, and Nathan Bain drove down the court to put in a layup at the buzzer to win the game. It was a fitting ending to a fantastic game.

Recap

Duke came into the game expected to win, favored by 27.5 points in betting circles and by 31 on KenPom. The Blue Devils looked like they were going to assert themselves early, taking a 15-point lead halfway through the first half. The Lumberjacks kept fighting, however, and kept themselves within arm’s length. At the half, Duke had a 45-40 advantage. Stephen F. Austin hounded Duke on defense and worked to get the ball inside.

In the second half, it was more of the same in terms of the Lumberjacks gameplan. They continued to make Duke feel uncomfortable and attack them in the paint. Stephen F. Austin kept the deficit around six points until they made a surge with around seven minutes left in the game. At that point, both teams continued to trade buckets right down to the end of regulation. Tre Jones missed a mid-range fadeaway jumper, and Cassius Stanley missed a putback that could’ve won the game at the buzzer in regulation for Duke.

The overtime period started out cold for both teams, with the first points coming a little over two minutes into the extra frame. Stephen F. Austin forced two shot-clock violations, suffocating Duke and making it difficult to get anything going. On Duke’s final possession, Gavin Kensmil intercepted a Matthew Hurt pass and got the ball to Bain, who dropped in the game-sealing layup as time expired.

Kevon Harris led all Lumberjack scorers with 26 points, with Kensmil adding 15 points and seven rebounds. Vernon Carey Jr. led all Duke scorers with 20 points, with Jones, Hurt and Stanley also scoring in double figures for the Blue Devils.

Winning Formula

Stephen F. Austin used a tremendous defensive effort to create points, while also asserting themselves in the paint on their offensive sets. The Lumberjacks turned 22 Duke turnovers into 22 points, while also getting 26 fast-break points as opposed to Duke’s 16 fast-break points. When Stephen F. Austin was in the half-court, they did not let Duke’s 14 blocks keep them from attacking the rim. Instead, they scored 64 of their 85 points from the paint, 28 more than Duke.

Stephen F. Austin made 10-14 second-half free throws, compared to Duke going 11-24. There many times that the Blue Devils went 1-2 from the charity stripe down the stretch, keeping the game at within one possession too many times. Finally, the Lumberjacks used an eight-man rotation to score 27 bench points, compared to just seven bench points and a six-man rotation from Duke.

Impact

Duke had won 150 straight non-conference home games before the loss to the Lumberjacks. Their last loss was to Saint John’s in February of 2000.

Meanwhile, Stephen F. Austin picks up its biggest win in program history, though they are no stranger to chopping down giants. The Lumberjacks advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2016. They become the second unranked team to defeat the AP poll’s number one team on the road this season, following Evansville’s defeat of Kentucky two weeks ago.

Duke Blue Devils Outlook

Duke will have to learn from this game quickly, as they enter a tough four-game stretch. Winthrop should be marked as a win, but the Eagles already have a road win over Saint Mary’s and will fight until the end. Then, the Blue Devils get Michigan State and Virginia Tech on the road. They finish at home against a Wofford program that is coming off their best season in school history.

Mike Krzyzewski always gets his teams to improve as the season goes on. However, he’ll need to figure out quick how his team let a mid-major own them in the paint. He’ll also need to continue to build the confidence of his young team. While the Blue Devils will continue to go through some growing pains, they should still be right in the mix come March.

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