Andre Dawkins and Jabari Parker gave Duke fans a late Christmas gift, as the pair combined for 43 points to roll past Eastern Michigan Saturday.
The No. 9 Blue Devils—back in action after a nine-day holiday break—routed the Eagles 82-59 behind the duo’s scoring onslaught and some help from Rasheed Sulaimon off the bench. After a tight first half due to a poor shooting effort from Duke, the Blue Devils broke the game wide open in the second half thanks to Dawkins and Sulaimon.“It always feels good to get back in the swing of things,” Parker said. “We want to get prepared for March and also for conference play. Games like this get us back in the rhythm and flow that we want.”
Parker owned the first half and Dawkins owned the second. The freshman phenom—who registered his ACC-leading 10th 20-point game of the season—shot 6-for-11 from the field to register 14 points and five rebounds in 15 first-half minutes, and Dawkins scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half as he shot 6-of-10 overall from beyond the arc.
Fans got their money’s worth of high flying action in the first half from Parker and Rodney Hood. Parker got the home crowd out of their seats by outjumping Eastern Michigan’s Olalekan Ajayi to throw down the dunk. Hood—who was playing sick— equally wowed fans when he grabbed the ball mid-air on a missed jump shot from Parker and threw the down a two-handed put-back slam.
“I think Rodney’s [dunk was better],” Parker said. “He’s just a guy that has sneaky bounce. A lot of people don’t think he’s athletic, but you see his head was at the rim. The guy is just an unbelievable athlete.”
But the game was not comprised of just flashy dunks for the Blue Devils (10-2). Duke shook off any rust it had in the second half, after struggling from the field in the opening half. The Blue Devils shot just 37.9 percent from the field in the first half but finished at 40.0 percent, along with a 75.0 percent shooting performance from the charity stripe.
“In the first half, we were struggling to find open spots against their zone, but at halftime we were able to adjust,” Dawkins said. “We talked about it. We knew where we wanted to attack and where we wanted to get the ball, so we were able to do that—hit open guys—and shots started to fall.”
Duke also struggled early on from behind the arc in the opening period as Eastern Michigan (7-4) held the Blue Devils to 21.4 percent shooting from long range. The shooting woes would not last long in the second half for the Blue Devils, thanks mainly in part to Andre Dawkins.
Dawkins, who got the start after Hood was feeling under the weather at tip-off, did what he does best Saturday—knock down 3-pointers. The Chesapeake, Va., native used his prowess from beyond the arc to put the game out of reach as Duke poured it on in the second half.
“I’ve got to thank my teammates for getting me the ball in spots where all I’ve got to do is catch and shoot,” Dawkins said.
With Parker and Dawkins being the only two starters in double-digits for Duke at the time, Sulaimon came in and provided a big spark off the bench for the Blue Devils. Sulaimon continued his recent upswing and contributed 13 points and three assists.
“There were a few things that stuck out to me today. One was the bench play,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Andre, Rasheed and Amile, I think the three of them combined for like 40 points and 19 rebounds. We needed that [because] Rodney got sick. He threw up right before the game, at halftime he was getting an IV.”
Duke had struggled with rebounding early on in the season and has made it a priority as of late. This commitment showed up in the box score Saturday as the Blue Devils outrebounded the Eagles 47-32, including 20 on the offensive end. Sophomore Amile Jefferson led the effort, registering 14 boards on the day.
“They were strong, and they were big, but it was just about getting position,” Jefferson said. “They play a really, really wide zone, so on misses you get more [of] a three step start to the rebound instead of just rebounding from one base, just because the zone is so wide. So, I think that really helped.”
Duke has one more game in 2013, as the Blue Devils will travel to Greensboro, N.C., to take on Elon New Year’s Eve.