Duke is less than 24 hours away from tangling with top-seeded Syracuse in Monday’s NCAA tournament final. But it is one 60-minute session that concerns the seventh-seeded Blue Devils.
Duke (15-5) powered past Cornell, 16-14, in Saturday’s semifinal, but the team suffered a lapse in the fourth quarter. The Big Red outscored the Blue Devils, 7-2, in that frame, and Duke needed an empty-net goal by junior attackman Jordan Wolf with 39 seconds left to seal the victory.
On Saturday night, the Blue Devils coaching staff reviewed film of that game and when an 11 p.m. meeting with the players came around, the film happened to begin with the fourth quarter and the players and coaches watched with equal amounts of dismay and relief.
“We started off a little slow, but we have great leadership and a lot of maturity, and we kind of settled down a little bit,” Wolf said. “We made a run, and Cornell’s a great team, and they’ve got great players. So they made a run also. We were just fortunate to hold them off at the end.”
If Duke gets a lead on the Orange (16-3) Monday, the team will have to take great pains to protect that advantage. Syracuse rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the fourth quarter to edge Yale, 7-6, in the quarterfinal round and overcame a 7-4 hole in the final period to nip fourth-seeded Denver, 9-8, in Saturday’s semifinal.
Blue Devils coach John Danowski cited the Orange’s poise and maturity and said the team should not feel comfortable until the final horn sounds.
“The memory we wanted our guys to prepare for was the fourth quarter with Cornell taking it to us,” Danowski said. “So the lesson is this game on Monday is going to be a 60-minute game.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun