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Duke Falls to Lehigh in NCAA Tournament, 75-70
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 03/16/2012
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Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils dropped a 75-70 decision to Lehigh on Friday in a NCAA Tournament second round game at the Greensboro Coliseum. With the loss, Duke concludes the season with a 27-7 record.

A 15-seed had not beaten a No. 2 seed since March 16, 2001, when Hampton defeated Iowa State, 58-57, in a shocking upset. Exactly 11 years later as pair of No. 2 seeds fell victim to 15-seeds as Duke lost to Patriot League champion Lehigh, while Big 12 Champion Missouri fell to MEAC champ Norfolk State in Omaha.

Mason Plumlee recorded his 15th double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. He was 9-of-9 from the field with six dunks to set the school’s single season record for dunks in a season with 60. Plumlee’s perfect shooting performance from the field was tied with four other former Blue Devils for most field goals made in a game with no misses. The record-holder was Carlos Boozer with 11 against Portland back in 2000. Plumlee added three blocks as well in the loss.

Freshman guard Austin Rivers added 19 points and four rebounds, while Tyler Thornton filled the stat sheet with seven points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Rivers finished the year averaging 15.5 points per game to become the third freshman in Duke history to pace the team in scoring. He also concluded the year with 30 double-figure scoring game to match Jason Williams for third-most by a Duke freshman.

Senior Miles Plumlee’s career came to a close with a four-point, six-rebound effort. Duke won 124 games, one NCAA Championship and three ACC Tournament titles during his four-year career.

Lehigh received an outstanding effort from junior C.J. McCollum, who finished with 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in 39 minutes of action. Gabe Knutson added 17 points and eight rebounds, with 15 points and all eight rebounds coming in the second half of play.

“We knew they were a good team,” said Mason Plumlee. “McCollum really led them and played well. If he wasn’t scoring, he was helping other people score. We didn’t guard the ball screen and he got a lot of stuff off of that. “

Duke grabbed a 30-28 halftime lead, despite going 1-of-10 from three-point range, in a back-forth opening 20 minutes of play. Mason Plumlee went 5-of-5 in the first half for 10 points, while the rest of the Blue Devils were 6-of-21 (.286).

The Blue Devils came out in the second half and grabbed a five-point lead with 17:25 remaining after a three-point field goal by Thornton and a driving layup by Josh Hairston.  Following a Lehigh timeout, the Mountain Hawks  went on a 15-5 run over the next  5:17 with McCollum racking up nine points during the run.

Duke rebounded to score the next six points to take a 49-47 lead with 8:36 remaining. Mackey McKnight buried a three-pointer 15 seconds later to put Lehigh ahead for good. Lehigh stretched its lead to five-points with 4:06 remaining on a McCollum free throw. Plumlee scored the next three points to trim the deficit to two points with 3:13 left to go. McCollum answered back with a three-pointer to make it s two possession contest with two minutes remaining.

The Blue Devils trailed by as much as eight points in the final minutes but continued to chip away with threes from Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and a three-point play from Rivers. Lehigh answered each time with a pair of dunks after breaking the press and solid free throw shooting. The Mountain Hawks were 10-of-12 from the free throw line over the final 1:06 of play.

Cook’s three-point field goals with 1.2 remaining cut the Duke deficit to three points to give the Blue Devils one last glimmer of hope during its comeback attempt. Duke nearly got a five-second call on the ensuing inbound play but Lehigh called timeout before the count reach five. McCollum shook free following the timeout and got fouled with 0.4 seconds remaining. He calmly knocked down both free throws to give Lehigh its first NCAA Tournament victory and its biggest win in school history.

“You just have to give them a lot of credit,” said head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “ There was some game pressure on them, we came back. They seemed to always have the answer.  They were very bold. They were very bold the entire game. We started the game tentative and at different times, we seemed very tentative on the offensive end and they were bold throughout.”