When the Duke men’s lacrosse team assessed its ACC tournament loss to Notre Dame last month, it realized that it couldn’t slow the pace if it wanted to make a lasting impact in the final weeks of the season.
The Blue Devils put that lesson to good use Saturday while hammering sixth-seeded Johns Hopkins 19-6 in an NCAA tournament first-round game, wasting little time getting into their efficient offense.
Junior attackman Justin Guterding had four goals and six assists, freshman attackman Joey Manown scored four times and sophomore midfielder Sean Lowrie added three goals as Duke dealt the Blue Jays their most lopsided loss in 49 all-time postseason home games.
“It was fun to run,” Guterding said. “We did it last week. After our Notre Dame game, we felt like we weren’t using our athleticism to our ability. Last week we got up and down and we were running and this week, same thing. We got to 19. We’re a very athletic group and we want to expose other teams when we run.”
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The Blue Devils (13-4) will meet the winner of Sunday’s Loyola-Ohio State game Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y.
After Hopkins (8-7) scored the first two goals, Duke quickly rallied. It received a substantial lift from its second midfield line, which accounted for a season-high four goals. Lowrie authored his second career hat trick, and John Prendergast added a goal to help put the Blue Devils up 13-5 at the break.
Lowrie had scored just twice in Duke’s previous eight games.
“We just had the spacing down really well,” Lowrie said. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on the past couple weeks. That was really all we did. We spaced everything out, and that opened up cuts and got us great shots.”
That happened a lot. The Blue Devils shot 51.4 percent (19-of-37) against Hopkins, which turned to junior goalie Brock Turnbaugh after it learned Friday night that projected starter Gerald Logan failed to meet the academic requirements for his graduate school program.
Hopkins’ problems went far beyond its goalie. Senior Kyle Rowe won 18 of 24 faceoffs for the Blue Devils, and Duke forced the Blue Jays in 20 turnovers, double their season average. The Blue Devils also scored on all four of their extra-man chances and didn’t commit a penalty.
“We didn’t play well,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “They punished us for everything we did wrong.”
Duke advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014 after absorbing first-round losses in back-to-back seasons. The Blue Devils had previously made eight consecutive semifinal appearances.
“I think the eight final fours in a row, it’s unrealistic to expect that year after year,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “But the kids, they want to be there, and they want to do those things, and they want to be looked at in the same light as players who went before them. They’re aware of it.”
The program’s legacy also included three national championships this decade, postseason runs that made Duke a measuring stick for other programs.
Based on its tournament opener, this bunch doesn’t want to waste much time as it chases a title of its own.
“Our junior class as a whole, we know we really haven’t won anything,” Guterding said. “We’d never won a playoff game, we’ve never won an ACC championship. Now we got it under our belt, and it’s time for us to play and have fun.”