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Mar 19, 2024 5:05 pm

Duke looking to answer ‘wake-up call’ vs. red-hot Vermont

filipowski duke

NEW YORK — Only three schools have appeared in the Sweet Sixteen more often than Duke.

Vermont just wants to get there once.

Fourth-seeded Duke will look to return to a familiar destination while No. 13 Vermont will aim to begin a Cinderella run Friday night when they meet in a South Regional first-round game at Barclays Center.

Duke (24-8) received an at-large bid after falling to North Carolina State, 74-69, in an Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinal on March 14. Vermont (28-6) earned the America East’s automatic bid by edging UMass Lowell, 66-61, in the conference tournament final Saturday.

The loss was the second straight for Duke, which fell to North Carolina, 84-79, in the regular season finale on March 9. It was the first ACC losing streak for the Blue Devils since a two-game skid from Feb. 6-11, 2023.

“For me, it’s even more of a wake-up call because we could have had just one more game left to the season now,” Duke sophomore center Kyle Filipowski said. “You’ve got to really see the reality of it and see that every team is really fighting for their lives. We just have to want it more than any other team that we play against.”

Duke fell to Tennessee in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. It was the earliest exit since 2017 for the Blue Devils, who have made the Sweet Sixteen 32 times and haven’t fallen short of the regional semifinal round in consecutive years since 2007-08 — when current coach Jon Scheyer was a freshman and a sophomore under Mike Krzyzewski.

Getting to the NCAA Tournament has become commonplace for Vermont, which went 15-1 in America East play this season but had to survive several scares on its way to a third straight conference title and a league-record 10th overall. The Catamounts overcame double-digit deficits in five wins and trailed by three points at the half in Saturday’s title game.

Vermont enters with a 10-game winning streak and has won 19 of its last 20.

Vermont has won two NCAA Tournament games, most recently in 2012, when it defeated Lamar 71-59 in a First Four game before falling to North Carolina. The Catamounts earned their lone main bracket win in 2005, when they edged Syracuse 60-57 in overtime before losing to Michigan State in the second round.

“We are trying to get to Sweet Sixteens,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “We are a national brand, we are nationally relevant. I’m not going to let anyone in this program be comfortable with what we did or (have) done. We want to do the next thing until I run out of goals and then I’ll retire if there’s nothing left to shoot for.”

Filipowski leads Duke with 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Jeremy Roach is averaging 14.0 points while Jared McCain (13.4), Mark Mitchell (12.3) and Tyrese Proctor (10.5) are also scoring in double figures.

TJ Long leads Vermont with 12.2 points per game while Shamir Bogues is averaging 11.0 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds. Aaron Deloney is averaging 10.9 points and leads the Catamounts with 3.0 assists per game.

–Jerry Beach, Field Level Media

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