Duke will wrap up its exhibition season Saturday when the Blue Devils welcome the reigning Division II National Champions to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke will look to build on its 103-67 victory over Bowie State one week later when the Blue Devils take on Drury Saturday at 1 p.m. The Panthers won their final 23 games last season and defeated Metro State to win their first Division II National Championship in school history. Saturday will be their first and only exhibition contest before opening the season next Friday, the same day that the Blue Devils begin their regular season at home against Davidson.
“We take it the same way we would a regular season game,” Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said. “We’re going to play. We’re trying to win, we’re trying to compete, and we’re trying to create really good habits. We’re trying to see how we carry over the things we’ve been working on.”
Although redshirt sophomore forward Rodney Hood and freshman forward Jabari Parker starred in their first appearances for Duke against Bowie State, key returners junior point guard Quinn Cook and senior guard Andre Dawkins both struggled, with Dawkins making just 1-of-7 field goal attempts in nine minutes of action and Cook finishing with just two points, three assists and two turnovers in 14 minutes.
Both will look to gain confidence Saturday before entering the season in competition with sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon, freshman guard Matt Jones and senior guard Tyler Thornton for playing time.
“We’re trying to start to really identify roles,” Capel said. “Guys have to embrace their roles. They have to trust it. They have to fall in love with it…. That’s how you become a really good team.”
Other bright spots in Duke’s first scrimmage were Jones and freshman forward Semi Ojeleye. Jones played 20 minutes and scored 15 points and got to the free throw line six times and Ojeleye scored three points and pulled down six rebounds in 11 minutes of action. Parker, Jones and Ojeleye will try to be just as successful in their second appearance as they were in their first.
“[Parker’s] a very talented guy and is willing to learn,” Capel said. “He understands that he still has a lot to learn and is willing to do so. I thought Matt Jones did some really good things. He plays hard, he defends and he’s actually become a pretty good driver. Then, I thought Semi Ojeleye did a terrific job, especially [after] sitting so long. He came in with a lot of energy and created some opportunities for us to score.”
Sophomore forward Amile Jefferson also had a successful outing against Bowie State, scoring 15 points. Jefferson showed a deft touch in the paint and will likely try to work with Parker and Hood to punish the Panthers in the lane—Drury’s biggest players are senior forwards Ian Carter and Mael Amenyedzi, both of whom are 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds.
Although Duke will likely struggle to keep up with opposing teams' size throughout the season, the Blue Devils will have a rare height advantage in Saturday's contest.
The Panthers enter the season looking to replace three senior starters, including their leading scorer from last season, guard Alex Hall—who put up 20.3 points per game—point guard Brandon Lockhart and forward Teddy Simniok.
With a number of role players looking to step up and fill voids for head coach Steve Hesser, it will be interesting to see how Duke chooses to defend Drury with so many of the Panthers not used to creating shots for themselves.
“They’re good,” Capel said. “They’re a champion. They have not lost a game since January 5th. They have guys returning that have championship experience. It’s a program that’s used to winning. We talk about us creating those habits—they have those habits. They’re trying to create them with a new group, but they have some guys back from that team. We know that they’re going to come in here with a lot of confidence.”