After playing three games in five days, Duke got some much-needed rest before the team returns to action.
“We have to rest,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after his team's 83-74 win against East Carolina Tuesday. “Our guys are dead.”
The No. 6 Blue Devils next take the court Sunday when they host Vermont at 6:30 pm at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It will be Duke's final game before traveling to New York City for the semifinal round of the NIT Season Tip-off at Madison Square Garden.
Redshirt sophomore captain Rodney Hood has stepped up in this recent stretch, averaging more than 25 points per game in Duke's last three contests. After a loss against Kansas in which he was not as aggressive as the coaching staff wanted him to be, Hood has responded in a big way. In the three games following the Kansas loss, Hood has been to the free-throw line 29 times—a sign that he is looking to score and attacking the basket.
“For Rodney, [the Kansas game] was the first time he was in a game of that magnitude,” associate coach Jeff Capel said. “He was not as aggressive as we want and need him to be, so after that game that’s one of the things we challenged him with. He’s responded in a big way, and he knows how important he is to this team.”
Highly-touted freshman Jabari Parker has impressed in his first few games, leading the team with 22.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He has opened the season with five consecutive efforts of at least 20 points—only the second Duke player to accomplish that feat. In 1961, Art Heyman started off the season with 10 straight games of 20 or more points.
So far, these two have carried the bulk of the offensive load for Duke—as they were expected to.
“Certainly everything we do will revolve around Jabari and Rodney,” Capel said. “Coach said it at the beginning of the year, and its proved to be very smart. Both of them are averaging over 20 points per game.”
Duke (4-1) will also look to continue its sharp shooting from beyond the arc, a key factor in a high-scoring offense that is averaging 93.0 points per game. The Blue Devils as a team are shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range, with both Parker and Hood hitting at well over a 60 percent clip.
Duke has struggled with its interior defense and rebounding in this young season. The Blue Devils have been outrebounded in three of their five games thus far, and it nearly cost them a victory Tuesday against East Carolina. The Pirates grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, and Duke narrowly escaped with an 83-74 victory.
“Where we have to make a big jump is defensive rebounds,” Capel said. “That is something that everyone collectively on the team can do. Scoring is the least of our concerns right now. Really rebounding, defending, interior defense are things we need to work on.”
The lack of a true center has proven to be an issue for the Blue Devils, although they will be facing a team that also lacks a natural option at the five position in the Catamounts (1-4).
Vermont’s biggest threat down low is Brian Voelkel, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who is averaging 5.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. He is a versatile weapon capable of crashing the boards and facilitating for his teammates, assuming a role on his team not unlike the one that Parker plays for the Blue Devils. The only traditional center on the roster for the Catamounts is 6-foot-10, 240-pound Ryan Piersen. Piersen had to sit out last year after transferring from Northeastern and has yet to appear in a game this season.
Duke is aware that its weakness on the glass is no secret and they know that teams will look to exploit their inability to consistency pull down rebounds. Capel said he is looking for players to have a more aggressive attitude going after rebounds.
“You have to want physicality. You can’t be afraid to be physical, and you have to have some guys that want to just go get the ball,” Capel said. “It’s something that we have not done well at all. Until we correct that, teams are going to attack us in that area.”