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Louisville at Duke preview: Cards look for season sweep of Blue Devils

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Much has changed since a meeting between two reeling ACC teams last month.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Louisville Courier Journal-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville Cardinals (12-5, 7-4) At Duke Blue Devils (11-8, 9-6)

Game Time: 6:05 p.m.

Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium: Durham, N.C.

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play) and Chris Spatola (analyst)

Favorite: Duke by 5.5.

Officials: Roger Ayers, Jamie Luckie, Clarence Armstrong

Series: Duke leads, 10-8

Last Meeting: Louisville won 70-65 on Jan. 23 at the KFC Yum Center

Series History:

Possible Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Duke:

When last we saw the Duke Blue Devils, they were absolutely floundering. Louisville’s win over Mike Krzyzewski’s team on Jan. 23 marked the third straight setback for a Duke team that would also go on to lose three of its next five. More controversy came at the beginning of February when the team’s most talented player, freshman Jalen Johnson, announced that he would be opting out of the remainder of the season.

Since the departure of Johnson, Duke has been a different team in the best possible way. The Blue Devils have won four straight, and in the process, have totally resurrected their NCAA tournament hopes.

The four-game winning streak for Coach K’s team came over a short 10-day span, the most recent victory coming Monday night over Syracuse. Duke won those four games by an average margin of 13.8 points, holding their opponents to 62.3 points per game and just 31.9 percent shooting from behind the arc. Duke’s ball movement has been markedly better during the winning streak as well. The team has dished out 77 assists against 44 turnovers (+1.75), and has assisted on 65.8 percent of the team’s made field goals (77 assists on 117 made field goals).

Not much has changed stylistically for Duke since the last time these two teams played. Nor has the name of the man doing the bulk of the Blue Devils’ offensive damage.

Louisville fans certainly got a glimpse of just how good ACC Player of the Year candidate Matthew Hurt is back in January. The scary thing is he’s been even better since. Hurt has averaged 20.8 ppg during Duke’s current four-game winning streak, has hit 16 of his last 14 three-point attempts, and is one of just two players in the country (Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert being the other) shooting better than 56 percent from the field, better than 46 percent from three-point range and making more than six field goals per game. David Johnson effectively stilted Hurt’s production in the second half of round one between these two teams, but it will be interesting to see if Chris Mack goes to Malik Williams for help with the Hurt assignment in the rematch.

Second-leading scorer DJ Steward (13.4 ppg) comes into this game coming off his best performance of the season. The freshman guard scored 21 points and dished out seven assists in Duke’s Monday night blowout of Syracuse. Steward has made at least one three-pointer in every game since going 0-for-3 from deep against Bellarmine on Dec. 4. He played well in the first game against Louisville, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, but he missed a wide-open three in the closing seconds that could have sent the game to overtime.

Perhaps the biggest change for Duke since the departure of Johnson has been the emergence of freshman big man Mark Williams. The 7-footer’s season averages remain modest, but like Steward, he’s coming into the Louisville game riding high after scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the win over Syracuse. Williams’ offensive game remains limited, but he’s a big body who will try to exploit U of L’s smaller frontcourt if Malik Williams is out of the game or paying too much attention to Matthew Hurt.

Senior point guard Jordan Goldwire continues to play his role well for the Devils. He’s never going to be a threat to go off for 30 points, but Goldwire leads the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (+2.72), is second in the league in steals (2.5 — 12th in the NCAA) and is seventh in the ACC in assists (3.8). His 18 multi-steal games (he had two in game one vs. Louisville) are tied for the most in the country. It’ll be an emotional night for Goldwire, who will be playing his final game at Cameron Indoor.

Wendell Moore and Jeremy Roach both had rough games against the Cards in January, but have been better (albeit not overly consistent) in recent weeks. Roach especially was stellar in Duke’s two most recent games, wins over Syracuse and Virginia. Cardinal fans should also expect to see more of former top U of L recruit Jaemyn Brakefield in this one than they did a month ago. The freshman forward has played 14 minutes or more in three of the four games since Johnson left the team.

Louisville has been one of the better transition defense teams in the country so far this season, a trend which must continue if the Cards want to walk out of Cameron with a win for a second straight year. It’s much, much easier said than done, but U of L has to limit Duke’s ability to get easy buckets off the break and clean looks from outside in the halfcourt. Do that, and the Cards have a good chance to score their (for the time being) first Quadrant 1 victory.

What Duke does do well: Score in transition, shoot the three, create steals, block shots, rebound on both ends.

What Duke does not do well: Get to the free-throw line, make free-throws, defend the three, keep opponents off the free-throw line, defend in transition.

Notable:

—Louisville is the only program in college basketball that has played at least 10 games against Mike Krzyzewski and owns a winning record against the Hall of Famer.

—Seven of the last eight games in this series have been decided by single digits.

—Louisville is 10-0 this season when it makes six or more three-pointers, and just 2-5 when failing to hit that mark.

—Saturday is Senior Night for Duke. The Blue Devils will honor seniors Jordan Goldwire and Mike Buckmire in a ceremony before the start of the game.

—Duke is 14-6 all-time when playing on Feb. 27, and is 9-2 when playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium on this date.

—Carlik Jones is one of just two players in the ACC to rank among the top 10 in scoring (17.21 ppg, 4th in the ACC), assists (4.5 apg, 4th), steals (1.5, 9th), assists/turnovers ratio (1.89, 5th) and free-throw percentage (.833, 4th).

—Jones is the first player in Louisville basketball history to score in double figures in each of his first 16 games as a Cardinal.

—Duke PG Jordan Goldwire leads the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (+2.72), is second in the league in steals (2.5 — 12th in the NCAA) and is seventh in the ACC in assists (3.8). Goldwire’s 18 multi-steal games are tied for the most nationally.

—Louisville ranks third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.414), fourth in scoring defense (65.8 ppg), and first in three-point field goal defense (.311).

—Louisville has lost its last three road games, scoring 58.7 points while allowing 77 per game in those contests.

—A Duke player has been the ACC’s leading freshman scorer in six of the last seven seasons, and freshman DJ Steward is on pace to make it seven of the last eight. Steward leads all ACC freshmen at 13.4 points per game.

—Duke’s Matthew Hurt has scored 124 points so far in the month of February, the most of any player in the ACC.

—Louisville’s Josh Nickelberry and Duke’s Joey Baker were teammates for two seasons at Trinity Christian High School before Nickelberry moved to Northwood Temple Academy for his final two prep years. Nickelberry also played AAU ball with Duke’s Wendell Moore.

—Duke has connected on at least one three-pointer in 1,109 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation. UNLV owns the longest streak at 1,125 straight games.

—Duke is 8-0 this season when holding opponents to 68 points or fewer, and just 3-8 when allowing more than 68 points.

—Louisville is 26-1 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 8-1 this season. The lone loss came at Miami.

—Duke is 11-4 since the start of the 2017-18 season when playing an ACC opponent in the regular season for a second time.

—Louisville beat Duke 72-69 in the 1986 NCAA Championship game behind Final Four Most Outstanding Player Pervis Ellison’s 25 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.

—Louisville is 4-5 in ACC games against Duke.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Duke 73, Louisville 69