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Duke loses to Arkansas in ACC-SEC Challenge. Three takeaways from Blue Devils’ loss

Arkansas played without its leading scorer Wednesday night, but it was No. 7 Duke that lacked a scoring punch.

With Tramon Mark sidelined, Arkansas pulled away from cold-shooting Duke behind Khalif Battle’s 21 points and beat the Blue Devils, 80-75, at Bud Walton Arena.

Duke (5-2) shot 35.8% overall, hitting just 6 of 22 3-pointers (27.3%) in losing to Arkansas (5-3) before a crowd of 20,344, the largest ever in the 30-year-old building’s history.

Mark, averaging 18.4 points per game, wasn’t in uniform as he recovers from a back injury he suffered last Friday when he fell awkwardly to the court during Arkansas’ 87-72 loss to North Carolina in the Bahamas. He was taken off the court on a stretcher and treated at a hospital before traveling back to the U.S.

But Arkansas persevered behind Battle and Trevon Brazile, who scored 19 points. Arkansas shot 49% for the game, including 60.9% in the second half.

Kyle Filipowski battled first-half foul trouble to score 26 points for the Blue Devils. But he did so while hitting just 9 of 20 shots. Jeremy Roach added 22 points for Duke.

Arkansas’ Chandler Lawson (8) keeps the rebound from Duke’s Jaylen Blakes (2) and Christian Reeves (21) during the first half of Duke’s game against Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., Weds. Nov. 29, 2023.
Arkansas’ Chandler Lawson (8) keeps the rebound from Duke’s Jaylen Blakes (2) and Christian Reeves (21) during the first half of Duke’s game against Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., Weds. Nov. 29, 2023.

Razorbacks’ red-hot after halftime

Duke trailed 33-32 at halftime and the Blue Devils’ deficit remained a single point, 44-43, with 13 minutes to play when Arkansas found another gear offensively to run away.

Battle scored 13 points in a few seconds more than four minutes of play as the Razorbacks lead ballooned to 14 points. A 6-5 senior guard, Battle bewildered the Blue Devils, hitting 3-pointers and drawing fouls. He hit all five of his free throw attempts during that stretch.

His 3-pointer with 8:55 to play gave Arkansas a 63-49 lead.

The Razorbacks hit 12 of their first 16 shots after halftime as Duke had no defensive answers at that point.

Down double-digits, Duke went to a full-court press over the game’s final minutes and drew as close 78-75 with 17.4 seconds to play. But Arkansas held on.

Zone to the rescue

With Filipowski already on the bench after picking up two fouls in the game’s first five minutes, 6-10 center Ryan Young joined him there when he picked up his third foul with 9:07 left.

Scheyer tried 7-1 sophomore center Christian Reeves in the post. But Reeves, playing his first game since a three-minute stint in Duke’s Nov. 10 loss to Arizona, failed to secure a defensive rebound, giving Arkansas a second chance. He then was out of position on defense, leading to Layden Blocker’s wide-open dunk that tied the score at 19.

Scheyer called a timeout with 8:27 left in the half, replaced Reeves with Filipowski. Arkansas built a 22-19 with 7:10 left and Scheyer had Duke switch to a zone defense. The move proved effective.

The Razorbacks scored on only two of their next eight possessions, a stretch that covered a little more than four minutes of game time.

Duke fought back and regained the lead four different times before Arkansas took a 33-32 halftime advantage.

Neither Filipowski nor Young picked up another first-half foul and Duke was in the game.

That zone, though, wasn’t employed when Arkansas hit shot after shot in the second half to pull away.

TJ Power earns trust

Scheyer gave 6-9 forward TJ Power key first-half minutes, a sign the freshman is showing enough good things in practice and in games to become part of the playing rotation.

Power hit two 3-pointers over the final seven minutes of the first half that kept Duke within a point at halftime. The hit three 3-pointers in just five minutes of play in the late stages of Duke’s 95-66 win over La Salle on Nov. 21. But he didn’t play on Nov. 24 when the Blue Devils had to use their starters until the end while rallying to beat Southern Indiana, 80-62.

As Duke looks for answers to what ails its 3-point shooting, Power could help. He finished with six points in 13 minutes against Arkansas.