Chron Chat: Blue Devils appear to be turning the corner down the stretch

Chron Chat: Blue Devils appear to be turning the corner down the stretch

Nearly halfway through conference play, Duke is sitting at 18-6 overall and 7-4 in ACC play. The team has turned it around after hitting a rough patch and appears to have hit its stride with big matchups against Virginia, North Carolina and Louisville looming. The Chronicle's men's basketball beat writers take a look at the storylines surrounding the Blue Devils.

After losing four of five games, Duke has won three straight games, including their first win against a ranked opponent Monday against Louisville. What has been the biggest improvement for the team in this recent stretch?

Ryan Hoerger: The improved play of Derryck Thornton has helped spark this team. Inserted back into the starting lineup Feb. 2 at Georgia Tech after several games coming off the bench, Thornton scored 15 points against the Yellow Jackets, followed by excellent defense on Anthony "Cat" Barber for most of the first half Feb. 6 against N.C. State. The freshman didn't score much Monday against Louisville, but hit a critical shot late in the shot clock to push the lead to eight with less than a minute to go. With Thornton starting, the Blue Devils have a more natural point guard on the floor, allowing guards Grayson Allen and Matt Jones to look for their shot rather than be creators and primary ball-handlers. It also creates a nice role for Luke Kennard coming off the bench as a pure scorer—not many teams have a guy that can go off for 30 points sitting with his warm-up on when the game tips off. Read more »

Jay Williams talks about his memoir at The Regulator

Jay Williams talks about his memoir at The Regulator

For many, life can be a series of misfortunes, regrets and mistakes. But for former Duke standout Jay Williams, as the title of his book says, life is not an accident.

Wednesday night at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Williams returned to the city where he spent his college days. He spoke with an audience of more than 100 people for nearly 45 minutes and then signed copies of his newly-published memoir, Life is Not An Accident. The book discusses Williams' near-miss with death in 2003, when he crashed his motorcycle into a pole, causing severe knee damage and essentially ending his basketball career.

As he explained, the almost four-year process of writing, editing and publishing a book went much deeper than simply putting words on a page.

"For a long time, I was held captive and I was chained to my own misery and my own past," Williams said. "It was not until I had truly had written this book and gone through the process over the last three-and-a-half to four years that now I finally feel like I'm in the present and I look forward to the future." Read more »

Chron Chat: Blue Devils struggling to adjust without Stevens

Chron Chat: Blue Devils struggling to adjust without Stevens

With nearly half of conference play behind them, the Blue Devils sit at 17-8 and 6-5 in the ACC. Duke has worked its way through injuries and early struggles to play better basketball in recent weeks. The Chronicle's women's basketball beat writers take a look at some of the storylines facing the team the rest of the way. 

Duke is 1-1 playing without star forward Azurá Stevens, who tore her plantar fascia Feb. 1 against Notre Dame. Stevens is listed as day-to-day, but if the 6-foot-6 sophomore is out for the foreseeable future, how does this affect the Blue Devils on both ends of the floor?

Mitchell Gladstone: Without Stevens, the Blue Devils looked incredibly lost Sunday afternoon in Coral Gables. They mired through a nearly 16-minute field goal drought and shot just 12 percent from the field in the first half. The 6-foot-6 forward is a double-double machine and given that Duke relies on her for a large portion of its offense, they had a hard time keeping up with the No. 19 team in the country—falling to 0-5 against ranked opposition this season. Even though Stevens is a force on the defensive end, the Blue Devils can make up for her absence there. But without her talent on offense, Duke is at an incredible disadvantage as teams will be able to focus on just redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell.

Drew Johnson: Stevens’ departure leaves a big hole in the paint that will need to be filled by the other forwards, namely Oderah Chidom and Amber Henson. The sophomore’s injury will also be felt by the team’s guards, who are now without their best post passing option. Stevens is a player who drew attention from opposing defenses and created open opportunities for the team's shooters, so expect her absence to have an impact on the wing players’ ability to find easy looks. Look for Erin Mathias to step into an enhanced role for the team, as the sophomore has averaged 14.5 minutes per game since Stevens’ injury—more than double her season average of 7.7 minutes per game. Read more »

Chronicle Postgame: Duke 72, Louisville 65

The Chronicle's Jack Dolgin and Meredith Cash break down a down-to-the-wire victory for the Blue Devils, who went 10-of-12 from the foul line in the closing minutes to put away No. 13 Louisville for their first win against a ranked opponent this season. Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half, and Duke went to Brandon Ingram down the stretch as a 6-foot-9 point guard, slashing through the lane to draw contact.

Around the ACC: Week 13

An undefeated conference leader falls and the standings continue to shift as another exciting week of ACC battles are behind us. The Blue Zone takes a look at the week for the teams in the ACC:

1. North Carolina (19-4, 8-2 in the ACC): The Tar Heels suffered back-to-back upsets to break their undefeated conference record and threaten their top spot in the conference. Forward Isaiah Hicks went 2-of-8 from the field in the team’s first loss of the week Monday night to No. 19 Louisville, and teammates Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson combined for just 7-of-23 shooting in South Bend as Notre Dame edged out the 80-76 upset Saturday. The team has the chance to rebound in this week’s matchups against Boston College and Pittsburgh before the first meeting with Tobacco Road rival Duke Feb. 17.

2. Virginia (19-4, 8-3): Malcolm Brogdon led the Cavaliers to two easy wins against Boston College and Pittsburgh, scoring almost half of his team’s total points in both affairs. Virginia got off to a slow start in a 61-47 win Wednesday, but a strong defensive effort held Eagles’ guard Eli Carter—averaging 17.3 before the game—to just seven points. 

The team ranked fifth nationally in points allowed proceeded in appropriate style, giving up just 50 to a Panthers squad averaging 79 points per game. Virginia hopes to avenge its first ACC loss in its rematch against in-state rival Virginia Tech this week before traveling to Durham for a highly-touted matchup against Duke Saturday. Read more »

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs Louisville

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs Louisville

After getting back to its winning ways at home against N.C. State Saturday, Duke defended its home court once again in a 72-65 victory against Louisville in the 1000th game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Behind a combined 37 points from freshman Brandon Ingram and sophomore Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils held the Cardinals off down the stretch and emerged with their first victory against a ranked opponent. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game: 

  • Clean the glass: Both Ingram and Marshall Plumlee were beasts on the glass, combining for 18 rebounds and helping Duke finish with a 33-32 advantage against Louisville in rebounds. Duke’s big men crashed the boards aggressively the whole game and Ingram's length was especially key as he tipped numerous balls to himself to end possessions. The Blue Devils corralled the ball when it mattered most, securing a crucial defensive rebound in the final minute of the game to give Duke a chance to milk the clock.
  • Contain the Cardinals penetration: The Blue Devils were able to handle the Cardinals perimeter playmakers, holding guards Quentin Snider and Trey Lewis to just 23 points combined. Louisville's leading scorer coming into the contest—graduate transfer Damion Lee—returned from injury after missing the previous game but was held to only 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting from the field. Duke opened the game with one of its best halves of defense this season and its perimeter defenders were in the faces of the Cardinals' ball-handlers all night. 
  • Score (a lot) on offense: It was strength on strength for the Blue Devils, one of the nations top-ranked offenses going up against on of the nation’s top defenses. Duke won that battle, with Ingram and Allen posting solid performances and Luke Kennard providing 11 off the bench. Plumlee was also productive—scoring 10 points along with eight rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass. Although Louisville tightened up its defense in the final 20 minutes of play, the Cardinals struggled to defend without fouling and sent Duke to the line 28 times in the game 

Three key plays:

  • 6:12 remaining, second half: The Cardinals take their first lead of the game after an old-fashioned  three-point play by Quentin Snider. Snider was fouled as he drove to the hoop and made his only shot from the stripe. The basket put Duke on their heels and in danger of dropping yet another conference game. 
  • 2:21 remaining, second half: Trailing 66-62, Louisville forward Raymond Spalding missed an easy layup short of the hoop. Marshall Plumlee grabbed the rebound and the Blue Devils were able to get Ingram to the line once again the next trip up the floor 
  • 0:33 remaining, second half: Freshman Derryck Thornton made a leaner in the lane with 33 seconds left that made it 70-62 and put the game out of reach for the Cardinals. Thornton has struggled of late but made arguably the shot of the game with the shot clock winding down. 

Three key stats: Read more »

HALFTIME: Duke 35, Louisville 24

Although both teams are playing on just one day of rest, the Blue Devils have been anything but tired through the first 20 minutes of their toughest home contest to date.

Duke leads No. 13 Louisville 35-24 after one half of play at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the 1,000th game in the history of the historic venue. Sophomore Grayson Allen leads all scorers with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor—including a 3-of-4 clip from downtown—and the Blue Devil defense has managed to hold the Cardinals' top offensive threats—Damion Lee and Trey Lewis—to 4-of-15 shooting through the first 20 minutes.

The Cardinals were the first to put points on the board, but the Blue Devils wasted no time getting hot. Just before the first media timeout, captain Marshall Plumlee ignited the crowd after his adept footwork opened him up for a quick two points in the paint. On the next trip down the floor, Allen drained a shot from the corner for three more points to put Duke ahead by seven just 3:24 into the game and force a quick timeout by Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. 

Louisville came out of the timeout with a new energy and staged an 8-2 run in the next 2:28 to climb back from its early deficit and cut the Blue Devil lead to three. The two sides exchanged baskets for the next few minutes, but an emphatic slam from freshman center Chase Jeter followed by a layup-turned 3-point play from Allen turned the momentum back in Duke's favor. Read more »

Thoughts on the AP Poll: Week 14

With the NFL season complete, the attention of the sports world shifts to the hardwood where upsets have become the norm:  

Blue Devils record a pair of victories but remain out of poll

Although Duke defeated Georgia Tech by nine on the road and quelled a second-half N.C. State comeback attempt to take care of the Wolfpack 88-80, the Blue Devils did not crack this week's poll. In each matchup, guard Grayson Allen showed off his ability to score with 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting from three against the Yellow Jackets and 28 points—including a perfect 12-of-12 from the charity stripe—Saturday against the Wolfpack.

But Duke will certainly have its chance to make noise on the national stage in the coming weeks as the Blue Devils host No. 13 Louisville and No. 7 Virginia this week before hitting the road to take on No. 9 North Carolina and face the Cardinals once again.  Read more »

Chronicle Pregame: Duke basketball vs. Louisville

Chronicle Pregame: Duke basketball vs. Louisville

The Chronicle's Ryan Hoerger and Jack Dolgin preview Monday's tilt between the Blue Devils and Cardinals—the 1,000th game in the history of Cameron Indoor Stadium and Louisville's first visit as a member of the ACC. The Blue Devils are riding a two-game winning streak into their toughest four-game stretch of the year; the Cardinals just beat No. 2 North Carolina but self-imposed a postseason ban for potential recruiting violations.