Duke’s men’s lacrosse team is playing at its best right now and looking very much capable of getting back to the championship game.
For the second straight game, the Blue Devils took down a team ranked in the top 20 of the rankings. Only this time, their opponent was ranked ahead of them.
No. 6 Duke bested No. 3 Loyola (Md.), 12-7, in a nationally televised game in Durham, North Carolina.
It’s the fifth straight win for Duke (6-1) and the second loss in the last three games for Loyola (4-2).
The Blue Devils grabbed a large lead in the second and third quarters, outscoring the Greyhounds 8-1 over that stretch. Loyola mounted a comeback in the fourth period, outscoring Duke 4-1, but its bid for a road win fell short.
Big games from big offensive players for Duke
Leading the way for Duke was attack Joey Manown, midfielder Brad Smith and midfielder Nakeie Montgomery.
Manown, a 5-foot-7 junior from Rhode Island, scored four goals against Loyola, tying a career-high he set as a freshman in the NCAA tournament against Johns Hopkins.
Smith, a 6-foot-3 senior from New Jersey, assisted on three of Duke’s goals and scored two himself. Coming into this game, Smith had 132 career points, ranking 18th among active players in the nation.
Montgomery, a 5-foot-11 sophomore from Texas, notched a hat trick in the first quarter and finished with four goals on the day. Montgomery had the green light all evening, getting off seven shots.
Defense also key for Duke
Also important in this game for Duke was Cade Van Raaphorst and his work on the defensive end. The 6-foot-1 senior from Arizona was tasked with shadowing Pat Spencer, one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country, who leads all active players with 306 career points.
Spencer was able to tally just a goal and two assists on the day, and he turned the ball over twice. Van Raaphorst scooped up four ground balls on the day.
Duke also bottled up Loyola sophomore Kevin Lindley, who is leading the country in scoring with 25 goals. On Thursday, Lindley fired three shots, but none found the back of the cage.
Loyola had been averaging 15.40 goals per-game, but Duke sliced that average in half.
Success against ranked teams and Loyola
Duke’s victory over Loyola was its third of the year against a ranked opponent. The Blue Devils had previously beaten then-ranked No. 5 Denver and then-ranked No. 16 Richmond.
The Blue Devils are set to face three more ranked opponents this month, hosting No. 1 Towson on March 16 and traveling to No. 14 Syracuse and North Carolina afterwards.
Duke has owned the series against Loyola recently. All-time, the Blue Devils are 21-12 against the Greyhounds, but 12-4 against them under coach John Danowski. Thursday was the 405th career win in Danowski’s career, and it was also his 38th wedding anniversary.
Thursday’s game marked the 89th time since 2007 that a top-10 Blue Devils team faced off against another team in the top 10. Duke is now 56-33 in those games — and 20-16 when it is the lower ranked team in the matchup.
For Loyola, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. On March 16, it will face an in-state rival in No. 19 Navy.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.