Playing a game at the same location as arch rival North Carolina, the Duke Blue Devils drew on the support of their own fanbase to drown out the haters and withstand a pesky Troy team on Friday in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was apparent from the onset that the Sun Belt conference champion Troy Trojans were no match in the East region against the 2 seed Duke Blue Devils. They hang tough, but ultimately came up short, 87-65.
Duke opened the game on fire from the perimeter, gaining a sizable advantage and sending a message to the Trojans that they meant business. Continuing to have control of the game, the Blue Devils maintained a double-digit lead, but Troy was slowly creeping its way into an opportunity to making things interesting.
The jitters were over and the pace settled, and the Trojans looked to Jordon Varnado (18 points) and his fearless post presence to produce on the biggest stage. Varnado gave the Trojans life, as they would get the game within seven before Duke ended the first half on a 9-2 run.
The Jordon Varnado Show picked right back up when the clock began rolling after the break. Varnado displayed his full repertoire, staying aggressive on mid-post face drives and showcasing his back-to-the basket skills. Yet at every push to make a run, the Blue Devils’ three-point marksmen had the answer.
A thunderous dunk by Troy junior guard Wesley Person brought the fans to their feet and energy to his squad, but yet again, Duke’s Matt Jones knocked down a three on the following possession extended the lead back to 12. Duke would not let the Trojans draw any closer, turning up the defensive focus and still executing at a high level.
Duke advances to the Second Round to face the winner of Marquette vs. South Carolina.
Duke knocked down 13 threes, led by Grayson Allen with five. Troy has nothing to hang their collective heads for, as they were the darlings in the Sun Belt, making the run after finishing sixth in conference and having six consecutive losing seasons prior to this year.
With the likely return of Varnado, Alex Hicks, and Wesley Person, the Trojans are poised to be contenders in the Sun Belt next year.