Duke basketball runs past Gardner-Webb
After a 13-day hiatus for exams, No. 8 Duke cruised to an 85-66 victory Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Gardner-Webb. With the most intense academic period of the season complete, the Blue Devils' win begins the final stretch of nonconference play.
"There are some real positives there today," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Our defense in the second half was a lot better than the first half. You don't stop playing for two weeks and not have some slippage. But overall I was pleased with our team."
Following a Jabari Parker 3-pointer that put Duke up by 17 early in the second half, Gardner-Webb pulled within 12 points of the Duke lead. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski inserted redshirt senior Andre Dawkins into the mix, who drained his fourth 3-pointer of the night and gave the Blue Devils a 16-point advantage.
Duke would hold that lead for the remainder of the contest stretching it out to more than 20 late in the game. Despite efforts by the Runnin' Bulldogs to cut into the Blue Devil lead, Duke's defense and a poor second-half shooting performance from Gardner-Webb proved too much to overcome.
"We were better defensively [in the second half], got some stops, but then we couldn't score. So there was that window there where we had an opportunity maybe to close the gap," Gardner-Webb head coach Tim Craft said. "Anytime we were able to cut into [Duke's lead] a little bit, they responded with a run to open it back up to 16, 18. It was kind of like that the rest of the game."
Multiple times in the first half it appeared that Duke would blow the contest open. Some lackadaisical defensive play from the Blue Devils allowed Gardner-Webb to stay within striking distance heading into the second half down 53-39.
"Playing in this type of setting for [Gardner-Webb], they are playing their best basketball right now," Krzyzewski said. "You have to play really hard in order to stop them from doing this stuff on offense."
In the first period, the Runnin' Bulldogs, who average around 32.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc, shot 62.5 percent from the floor, and the Blue Devils managed 58.8 percent. Against Gardner-Webb, each half was a reminder of how Duke can control the flow of the game with strong defensive play.
"In the first half, I don't think we played as good a defense as we wanted to, but we were able to play a little bit better in the second half," Dawkins said. "We gotta keep building on the defensive end. That's where our identity has to be because scoring comes easy for a team like this."
Though Duke's defense improved as the game went on, Gardner-Webb was able to penetrate to the rim, grab offensive rebounds and hit open outside shots early keeping the game close throughout the first 10 minutes of the contest.
The Runnin' Bulldogs ended the contest having shot 54 percent from the floor and held the Blue Devils to 50 percent from the field. Duke rebounded the ball well throughout the contest, winning the battle on the glass 37-22 and turning 15 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points.
The combination of Dawkins and guard Quinn Cook powered Duke's offense early in the game during a five-minute run that put Duke up 35-18 with nine minutes remaining in the first half. Dawkins had 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and was the sparkplug off the bench for Duke, while Cook had a team-high nine assists along with 16 points in the game. Dawkins benefited from his graduate school exams being earlier in the break than his undergraduate teammates, one that Krzyzewski believed helped contribute to the on-court performance.
"He and [assistant coach] Steve [Wojciechowski] would come in every night or late in the afternoon after our morning workouts and put in extra time, and its paid off," Krzyzewski said. "Andre's been practicing great, and he played that way today."
The duo of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both had quiet nights despite both scoring in double figures. The Blue Devils shared the scoring load and the ball throughout the night ending with 18 assists on 28 field goals.
Parker finished the night with a game-high 21 points, most of which came in the flow of the offense. Having two other scoring threats than Parker or Hood gave more opportunities for secondary players to contribute and allowed the Hood-Parker duo to contribute without drawing double- and triple-teams.
"Defenses are going to be focusing in on [Parker and Hood] so for guys like me, Andre [Dawkins], Rasheed [Sulaimon], and Tyler [Thornton] to step into those scoring roles that's going to help make their job easier," Cook said. "Its a big thing we have to do."