NASSAU, Bahamas -- A few quick thoughts from Duke's 76-71 victory over Louisville in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Overview: It may be November, but it certainly felt like March on Saturday in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, where an unlikely star helped Duke emerge from a clash of top-five teams.
Quinn Cook, a sophomore point guard who played sparingly last season because of an injury, scored 11 of his 15 points in the final 7 minutes, 21 seconds to propel the Blue Devils past Louisville.
Cook was selected as the Battle 4 Atlantis’ Most Outstanding Player, a high honor considering the tournament is being hailed as one of the top nonconference events in recent memory. The field featured four ranked teams, but none was on the same level as No. 5 Duke and No. 2 Louisville, who are coached by two of the game's most legendary coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino.
The meeting marked just the second matchup between Pitino and Krzyzewski, with the first coming in 1992, when Duke advanced to the Final Four by beating Pitino’s Kentucky squad on Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper at the buzzer.
Saturday’s game didn’t feature a dramatic final shot, but it was fitting that it came down to the wire. It was still a three-point game until Cook swished a pair of foul shots in the final seconds.
Turning point: Louisville pulled within two points, 68-66, when Chane Behanan rebounded a missed foul shot by Russ Smith and scored on an easy putback with 1:16 remaining. But Duke stole the momentum right back a few seconds later when Ryan Kelly threw an inbounds pass the length of the court and hit Cook in stride for an easy layup. The basket gave Duke a 70-66 cushion with 1:11 left. Behanan split a pair of foul shots on the other end to make it 70-67, and Cook responded again, this time with a pull-up jumper that stretched Duke’s cushion to 72-67 with 27.5 seconds on the clock. Louisville never recovered.
Player of the game: Cook is the obvious choice, but Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly are also worthy of praise. Plumlee had a team-high 16 points and 7 boards while Kelly added 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Peyton Siva had 19 points for Louisville.
Key stat: Louisville outscored Duke 46-26 in the paint, which is somewhat surprising considering the Cardinals played without standout center Gorgui Dieng, who missed the game with a wrist injury. The absence of Dieng was significant. He averages 8.2 points and 8 rebounds and is regarded as one of the country’s top interior defenders.
Miscellaneous: The Battle 4 Atlantis All-Tournament team: Cook (MOP), Plumlee, Siva, Russ Smith and Missouri’s Phil Pressey. Next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis field includes Kansas, USC, Wake Forest, UTEP, Xavier, Villanova, Tennessee and a yet-to-be-determined team from the Big Ten. Michigan State is a possibility.
Up next: Duke hosts Ohio State Wednesday. Louisville’s next game is Saturday against Illinois State.