PROVIDENCE, R.I -- Yale exploited Duke's lack of a full-time point guard with a full-court press.
The Bulldogs turned their rebounding skills into an advantage by switching to a zone defense. The only thing Yale couldn't counter was the Blue Devils' future NBA lottery pick.
Brandon Ingram saved the Blue Devils from what would have been an epic collapse, helping Duke advance to the Sweet 16 with a 71-64 squeaker of a win that showed exactly what makes the defending national champions vulnerable in this NCAA tournament -- and yet also so dangerous. The 6-foot-9 freshman scored 25 points, finishing 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Flawless might seem a bit hyperbolic, but the Devils were darn close in the first half and at the start of the second, cruising to a 22-point lead that lulled a partisan Yale crowd to sleep in the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
And then in a matter of minutes it all fell apart, Yale inexplicably turning a 54-32 hole into a seven-point deficit. It shouldn't have happened, not with the way Duke was playing, but the Blue Devils' margin for error is razor thin and the Bulldogs practically pushed them over that edge.
Yale coach James Jones threw out a full-court press, and the stunned Devils completely lost their composure. This is a team that hasn't played with a true point guard for much of the season -- freshman Derryck Thornton has played better with more minutes lately, but he's still not good enough to trust with the ball in his hands full time -- and it looked like it (he finished with two points).
When Duke did get the ball over midcourt, Jones pulled out another trick, switching his Bulldogs into a zone. For six consecutive possessions, the Blue Devils settled for one shot, unable to commandeer a rebound.
Without Amile Jefferson to work inside this season, the Blue Devils pick up only 40 rebounds per game -- they grabbed 28 against Yale -- and have an inability to stretch a possession after each board. Yale systematically chipped away at the lead, closing the gap to 54-47 as the red-hot Blue Devils went ice cold.
So that rebounding deficiency is the bad for Duke, as it advances into the second weekend of the tournament.
The good is Ingram. The future NBA star -- coach Mike Krzyzewski said this weekend he'd be gone after this season -- is talented enough to erase most of Duke's flaws. He has an array of skills that, let's face it, no one in the Ivy League does. Mixing up floaters, 3-pointers and drives to the hoop, he saved Duke from early extinction, scoring 14 of his 25 points in the second half.
Duke has only seven guys, but when one of them is Ingram, that can make a vulnerable team dangerous.