Louisville extended Duke's losing streak to three games while ending a two-game losing streak of its own on Saturday with a tightly-contested 70-65 win over the visiting Blue Devils. Carlik Jones led the way for the Cardinals with 24 points, including eight in the final two minutes, to rebuff a 24-point effort from Duke forward Matthew Hurt.
Joey Baker, Wendell Moore Jr. and DJ Steward each got 3-point looks in the final 35 seconds for Duke that would have either put the Blue Devils ahead or tied the game. But each of them rattled off, allowing Jones to calmly put the game away at the free-throw line. The win improved Louisville to 10-3 (5-2 ACC) while keeping the Cardinals in the mix near the top of the league standings, but it was only a Quadrant 3 victory and will not improve the Cardinals' standing as a projected No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to CBS Sports Bracketology expert Jerry Palm.
That is a testament to Duke's weak resume. The Blue Devils (5-5, 3-3) entered ranked No. 90 in the NET and on the outside of Palm's projected NCAA Tournament field. A win over Louisville would have been Duke's best of the season, and it looked like it might happen when Jalen Johnson's lay-up put the Blue Devils ahead 65-64 with 1:30 remaining. Duke went cold, however, and with Hurt fouled out of the game, Jones took over and scored the final six points of the game.
The graduate transfer from Radford won the Big South's Player of the Year award last season, but it was fair to wonder how his game would translate to the major conference level. However, the 6-foot-1 Jones entered as the ACC's third-leading scorer at 17.9 points per game and has scored in double figures during every Louisville game this season. Saturday's clutch outing only solidified his standing as one of the top players in his new conference.