Duke has a pair of freshmen inside players expected to be taken in the NBA Draft lottery this spring.
But on Saturday, Anas Mahmoud was the best post player on the floor. The University of Louisville junior had a career day for the Cardinals in a 78-69 victory over the Blue Devils before 22,686 fans at the KFC Yum Center.
"I think today is the most fired up I've ever been since Georgia Tech last year," Mahmoud said.
The 7-foot Mahmoud finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot. He was 6 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line in 26 minutes of action.
His points and rebounds are both new career highs.
"I thought he was very good," Rick Pitino said of Mahmoud. "He's still not grabbing the loose rebounds that are up there, but that's just a strength issue. He's just going to keep getting better and better."
In his last five games, Mahmoud has scored double figures three times. He's averaging 9.4 rebounds a game during that stretch and his six field goals and nine field-goal attempts were also career highs.
"I had fun out there," Mahmoud said. "But it's not confidence for myself. I know what I can do out there but it's confidence for my teammates and coach P to trust me. All I can do is be there for them to help my team.
"I want to show coach P that he can trust me out there in crucial times."
Mahmoud, who has blocked a shot in 19 straight games, said he wasn't sure how his game was going to play out early. He said with the early start and the low blocks didn't seem like things were going to go his way.
"I felt tired this morning when I woke up," Mahmoud said with a smile. "If I am there blocking shots the first possession, I usually know I am there and focused in. I didn't block as many shots today.
"But I ended up feeling really good out there. Duke has a lot of talent on their team. But it's not just me - we as a team have to show everybody in the nation we have just as much talent as anybody else."