Duke makes big mistake on final possession in loss
Duke was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, losing 68-67 to Michigan State in their Elite Eight clash. While the game was close for nearly the entire second half and thrilling to watch, the Blue Devils made a baffling decision on their final possession.
Duke was down 68-66 with just under six seconds remaining. They were taking the ball out from the baseline after a review showed Michigan State had knocked the ball out of bounds. I thought for sure the ball was going to Zion Williamson, but instead he drifted away from the passer, while the ball went into RJ Barrett, who was closer to the side where the inbounds pass was.
Barrett drove to the basket and went up in traffic for a shot and got fouled. Just a 66.5 percent free throw shooter, Barrett missed the first attempt. He tried to miss the second attempt but it actually bounced in. Duke fouled Michigan State on the ensuing inbound and lost when the Spartans dribbled away with the ball.
Duke’s big mistake was not going to their best player, Zion Williamson. He’s the guy who has carried them through their toughest moments and closest games. He delivered late against UCF. He’s the one you want with the ball with the game on the line. Yet it was Barrett constantly getting the looks late.
Duke lost three games with Zion Williamson in the lineup this year.
RJ Barrett went ***0-for-9*** in the final minute of those three games. The rest of the team had three total shots. Zion had one.
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) March 31, 2019
After so many close calls at the end of their previous games, it’s not really surprising that Duke’s luck ran out. You can’t have so many games come down to the final play and expect each one to go your way. But you also have to give yourself the best chance to win, and by not going to Zion, Duke didn’t do that.