DURHAM, North Carolina — No. 13 Louisville can't win any tournaments this season. The best the Cardinals can do is finish atop the ACC standings.
They missed a chance to grab the top spot for themselves on Monday night when Duke beat them 72-65.
Donovan Mitchell scored 17 points and Quentin Snider added 12 for the Cardinals (19-5, 8-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 56 percent in the second half and erased a 15-point deficit before losing to slip a half-game behind first-place North Carolina.
This was Louisville's first road game since announcing it would self-impose a postseason ban this year amid an ongoing investigation into a sex scandal involving escorts.
With no tangible tournament to play for, the Cardinals can only spend these final regular-season games playing mind games.
"I think mentally, we're there. It's like a tournament time, that's how we want to play — first round, second round, Sweet 16, we're going to start off like that," Snider said. "Just try to get that imagination in us."
Trey Lewis finished with 11 points, while Damion Lee had 10 on 3-of-15 shooting and missed all five of his 3s in his return from a knee bruise that kept him out of the Boston College win on Saturday.
"They just really pressured him," coach Rick Pitino said of Lee. "And he's got to learn to play without the basketball a little bit more early in the game, and slow down. ... He's rushing things too much."
The key stretch came when Louisville had the ball down 66-62 with about 2½ minutes left. Ray Spalding left a layup short off the iron, Duke's Marshall Plumlee grabbed the rebound and it was at least a two-possession game the rest of the way.
Brandon Ingram and Matt Jones both made two free throws on the next two possessions before freshman Derryck Thornton hit a jumper in the lane with the shot clock winding down to make it 70-62 with 33 seconds left.
"Little things — we missed itty-bitty layups, we missed free throws, just little things that we just missed, and we could have won off that," Snider said.
Lewis swished a 3-pointer with 24.5 seconds left to pull the Cardinals within five and Thornton missed two free throws with 22.5 seconds left, but Lee missed a 3-pointer with about 10 seconds to play and Luke Kennard iced it with two more free throws with 6.4 seconds left.
This was Pitino's first visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium. He fell to 1-4 against the Blue Devils, against whom he's had some classic matchups through the years — but none at Cameron.
Ingram had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Grayson Allen scored 19 points and Kennard had 11 for the Blue Devils (18-6, 7-4), who hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final 3:14 to beat a ranked opponent for the first time this season.
"Two weeks ago," coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "we lose that game by 15 points."
This was the third time in four weeks that Duke made the quick Saturday-Monday turnaround. The Blue Devils lost on each of the two previous Mondays, first to Syracuse and then at No. 12 Miami. "We were learning," Jones said. "We're older now, so to speak. We remember those two games. We don't want that feeling again. We just had to fight."
Louisville: This marked the 1,000th career game in Pitino's Hall of Fame career. He is 741-259 in 31 seasons as a college coach. ... It was the Cardinals' first game at Cameron since 1983.
Duke: This marked the 1,000th game played at Cameron. The Blue Devils are 844-156 in the historic building that opened in 1940.
Louisville visits Notre Dame on Saturday.
Duke plays host to No. 7 Virginia on Saturday.
AP college basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org