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New York • It wasn't revenge, not exactly. But damned if it didn't feel pretty good.
Jakob Poeltl, the sophomore center who wiped the glass for 19 points and 14 rebounds, walked with his arms around Jordan Loveridge and Jake Connor as he sauntered off the floor at Madison Square Garden. The squad raised their fists and flashed their "U" signs at a crowd of thousands of fans who had come a long way to see to see the Runnin' Utes upset No. 7 Duke, 77-75 in overtime on Saturday.
"It's a very, very emotional win," Poeltl said. "A great win in my opinion."
It wasn't the same stakes as the Sweet 16 game Utah (9-2) lost back in March, but it carried the same air of surrealism: It was a victory almost unthinkable a week ago, and one the Utes won despite being on the receiving end of questionable late whistles and making enough mistakes to fill a week's worth of film sessions.
What pulled them through was the dirty work rebounds, contesting Duke's shots at the rim, and free throws. And in the paint, Utah's second-year big men stood tall, as Kyle Kuzma led with 21 points along with Poeltl's double-double against the Blue Devil's injury-shortened front line.
The post showcase was a dramatic turnaround from last weekend, when the Utes were bogged down in a road loss to Wichita State. On ESPN, in the self-billed "most famous arena in the world," Utah strutted its best stuff.
"It's a program win," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "It's kind of beyond words, really, when you consider what we've gone through."
There was a lot of hair-pulling agony for Utah in the last five minutes alone.
Utah started out overtime rolling, hitting their first four shots to take a six-point lead. Duke began to foul, and Jordan Loveridge and Dakarai Tucker were cool at the line, hitting eight straight free throws.
The Blue Devils didn't give up easily: Freshman guard Luke Kennard hit a gutsy 3-pointer with 6 seconds left and was fouled by Lorenzo Bonam. After the 4-point play, Tucker dropped an inbounds pass to give Duke the ball with an opportunity to tie.
Brandon Ingram drove to the rim, but the star freshman was unable to make his final shot on a 6 for 16 night, and Kuzma snatched the rebound to save the Utes from their errors.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached the Blue Devils to the NCAA title last spring and managed to top the Utes by six points March, said it was hard to be upset with his team's effort. Krystkowiak, who stripped his jacket as Duke turned up the heat at the game's finish, was also impressed.
"We probably won't face anyone like that for the rest of the year that is capable of doing what they did," Krystkowiak said.
Utah had to overcome some of its own issues, including 19 turnovers and foul calls that seemed to turn against them late in the game. Duke scored 20 points off turnovers and 20 off second chances.
The Utes had an 18-rebound edge on the glass, and scored almost twice as many points in the paint as the Blue Devils. From the start when the Utes scored three of its first four baskets on dunks they attacked Duke in the front court, where it was weakened by an injury to double-double post Amile Jefferson.
Poeltl had 12 points before the halftime buzzer, helping put Utah ahead early in the game. Kuzma started out slow, but scored Utah's final three baskets of the first half to give the Utes a 33-30 halftime lead.
But as the Utes jumped to their largest advantage, 42-33 with 13 minutes remaining, Duke rallied back midway through the second half: The Blue Devils went on an 18-2 run, fueled by nine straight misses.
Utah had to claw its own way back in the game, and it did it with defense: Rallying back from a 7-point deficit, Utah forced Duke misses on the final six shot attempts of regulation, contesting anything and everything at the rim. Kuzma tied the game with 1:50 left on a fast-break lay-up and a dish from Bonam.
The Utes got their chance to win it in regulation: They took a timeout with 12 seconds remaining, then got a look at the 3-point from Kuzma that was long and bounced off the rim as time expired.
Winning ugly is still winning, especially as the Utes come close to wrapping up a non-conference schedule. After striking out against Miami and Wichita State, the team now has a win in hand over the bluest of blue bloods, the defending national champ that beat them last year.
Happy holidays, indeed.
"You can't ask for a better win, especially losing to them last year," Loveridge said. "Getting to come back and be able to play in a venue like this is a lot of fun."
R Jakob Poeltl finishes with 19 points and 14 rebounds as Utah beats Duke in overtime.
• Kyle Kuzma adds 21 points and 8 rebounds as Utes dominate the post game.
• Down seven points late in the game, Utah forces Duke to miss its last six shots of the half.