No. 6 Duke dodges Vermont’s upset bid, 91-90
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — His roster is loaded with blue-chip talent and high school All-Americans. Yet Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski knows his sixth-ranked Blue Devils aren’t good enough to win by simply showing up.
Vermont proved it to them Sunday night.
Out-of-sync — and overconfident — Duke needed a free throw from Rodney Hood with 5 seconds left to dodge the Catamounts’ upset bid and win 91-90.
“They were terrific,” Krzyzewski said, “and we were awful.”
And that wasn’t even close to the harshest criticism Coach K had for his players.
He called it an “unacceptable performance,” said the Blue Devils “were lucky to win” and implored them to “respect the game more than we did tonight.”
Jabari Parker scored 26 points in his sixth straight 20-point performance. Hood finished with 22 for Duke (5-1), which extended its nonconference winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium to 106 games.
Duke blew a 15-point lead and allowed Vermont to shoot 64.8 percent before — depending on the perspective — it either got the one defensive stop it needed, or the Catamounts simply ran out of time.
“We played like a team that thought we would just show up and win,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s how you get beat.”
Candon Rusin’s four-point play with 10.4 seconds left for Vermont tied it at 90. Hood brought the ball downcourt, drove the lane and drew contact from Clancy Rugg. Hood bounced his first free throw off the rim, then swished the second.
Sandro Carissimo hurried the Catamounts downcourt and found Rusin in the corner, but he couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
“We didn’t win this game,” Hood said. “We kind of deserved to lose the game, and we got lucky.”
Hector Harold scored 24 points and Rugg finished with 20 for Vermont (1-5). The America East favorites lost their fourth straight, dressed only nine healthy players but gave Duke all it could handle with by far its best shooting performance of the season.
The Catamounts — who hadn’t shot better than 44 percent all season — routinely found open passing lanes and created paths to the bucket against a lethargic Duke team that, for all of its athleticism, lacks a true big man. Vermont outscored Duke 50-24 in the paint.
Vermont “came into Duke with no pressure on us, and we played like there was no pressure on us,” coach John Becker said. “Maybe this is a lesson learned for our guys.”
For Duke, too.
“Every team is going to face us like we’re the best, because on paper it says that and across our chests it says that,” Parker said. “We just have to be prepared to treat teams, every time, to be competitors and be the best that we can be because they’re not going to shy up on us.”
Andre Dawkins scored 16 points and Quinn Cook added 14 for the Blue Devils. Cook broke a tie with a 3-pointer with just under 2 minutes left that made it 86-83.
They stretched their lead to 88-84 on Rasheed Sulaimon’s free throw with 40.8 seconds to play before Carissimo made it a two-point game with his tip-in with 29 seconds remaining.
Cook seemingly gave Duke a cushion when his two free throws with 19.4 seconds left made it 90-86 — but when Sulaimon knocked Rusin to the ground on his deep 3-pointer, the Catamounts had another chance.
Carissimo finished with 16 points and Luke Apfeld had 10 for Vermont, which fell to 3-17 against ACC schools and is winless against all of them except for Boston College.
Yet the Catamounts looked plenty capable of taking advantage of a ripe Duke team that struggled all night to stop them.
“We’re not connected on the defensive end,” Hood said.
When the Blue Devils built a 61-49 lead on Parker’s steal and fast-break dunk with 15½ minutes left, that looked like the spark that would get the sluggish Duke defense going.
Instead, Vermont reeled off 10 straight points after that as part of a 13-2 run. Harold’s three-point play pulled the Catamounts to 63-62 with just over 11 minutes left.
“Those are the kind of situations where we show our immaturity,” Krzyzewski said of the dunk by Parker. “Right after that (play) was our worst. And my feeling is, just like kids (saying) ... ‘Now we got it. We’re good now.’ We’re not good now.”
Carissimo’s free throw with 7:50 left tied it at 71. Harold’s 3 from the key about a minute later put Vermont up 74-73 — its first lead since early in the first half — and neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way.
“We compete and play defense every game and every day at practice,” Becker said. “Tonight, the ball went through the basket, and we were able to hang around with a really good team.”
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