Another victory, another regular season championship. After enduring three games in three days, the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils kept their composure down the stretch as they defeated the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals, 76-71, to capture the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis championship. With the win, the Blue Devils move to 6-0 for the sixth straight season and have now won 23 consecutive regular season tournaments resulting in six straight regular season championships, dating back to 2006.
In their first meeting since the 1986 National Championship game, the matchup between Duke and Louisville on Saturday night was highly expected once the tournament field was revealed in August.
After facing their largest deficit of the season at 11 points, the Cardinals perservered and took a 59-58 lead with 8:22 remaining, their first lead since the 17:53 mark in the first half. With the momentum shifting in Louisville’s favor, Duke sophomore point guard Quinn Cook stepped up at the most opportune time connecting on a three-point attempt to give the Blue Devils a 61-59 lead. With the game going back-and-forth for the next few minutes, he then converted Duke’s final eight points of the game, beginning with a layup off of a long inbounds pass from senior Ryan Kelly to give Duke a 70-66 lead with 1:11 to go in regulation. On the ensuing Duke possession, Cook then drove into the lane, knocking down a running floater with 26 seconds remaining to put Duke ahead 72-67.
“I thought that play was one of the separators,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Louisville came no closer than three points, as Cook sealed the victory at the free throw line going 4-4 in the game’s final 13 seconds. Cook finished with 15 points, four rebounds and six assists earning MVP honors for the tournament.
“The main thing Quinn has done is that he hasn’t shown any weakness,” Krzyzewski said. “He has a great face, great demeanor, and he’s in incredible shape. He doesn’t get tired. He has the demeanor of an outstanding player. A leader has to look strong before he is strong.”
Cook wasn’t alone, as the rest of the Duke starters played sensational led by senior Mason Plumlee with 16 points and seven rebounds. Fellow seniors Kelly and Seth Curry along with freshman Rasheed Sulaimon all finished with 14 points apiece. Plumlee was named to the All-Tournament team, finishing the tournament averaging 17.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
Louisville was led by senior point guard Peyton Siva who scored a game-high 19 points. Junior guard Russ Smith added 17 points and seven rebounds in the first loss of the season for the Cardinals, who were without starting center Gorgui Dieng due to a left wrist injury suffered against Missouri on Friday night.
With their sixth victory of the season, Duke has now defeated four teams ranked inside the top-20 in the Ken Pomeroy rankings — No. 3 Louisville, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 14 Minnesota and No. 20 VCU. Three of the four wins came in consecutive days at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Duke’s dominance in the month of November continues as they have now won 55 of their last 57 games, dating back to the 2004-05 season. The Blue Devils will most likely jump to No. 2 in next week’s top-25 rankings, leaping No. 4 Ohio State who they will meet next Wednesday as apart of the ACC/B10 Challenge.
Until then, the Blue Devils can enjoy this championship on their way back to Durham, emerging from a stacked tournament field in the Bahamas. At first glance, Duke had some question marks revolving around this year’s team, however, they are clearly dispatching the notion that they aren’t worthy of their top-five ranking this early into the season.
Official Box Score
Battle 4 Atlantis All-Tournament Team
Duke – Quinn Cook (Tournament MVP)
Duke – Mason Plumlee
Louisville – Peyton Siva
Louisville – Russ Smith
Missouri – Phil Pressey
Quick Assessment of Battle 4 Atlantis
1. Duke – Captured championship over No. 2 Louisville
2. Louisville – Advanced to championship game against No. 5 Duke after victory over No. 13 Missouri
3. Missouri – Defeated VCU for third place, lost to Louisville in semifinals
4. VCU – Met three ranked teams, No. 19 Memphis (win), No. 5 Duke (loss) and No. 13 Missouri (loss)
5. Minnesota – Lost to Duke, but reeled off consecutive wins over Memphis and Stanford
6. Stanford – Went 1-2 during tournament, with only victory coming against Northern Iowa
7. Memphis – Ranked 19th entering tournament, took two losses to VCU and Minnesota
8. Northern Iowa – Went 0-3 during tournament, lost to Louisville and Memphis by combined 10 points
By Chad Lykins
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