With the NBA season under way, a handful of former Blue Devils are off to strong starts in the association. The Blue Zone takes a look at how some of Duke's finest have faired in the early going.
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers
The NBA’s leading rookie of the year has continued on his torrid early season pace, despite his team’s 0-14 record. Okafor has recorded double-digit points in every contest except one and he has tallied a double-double in three out of his last five games. Although he has come back to Earth in terms of rebounding and field goal percentage, his 17.9 points per game still leads all rookies by nearly a full two points.
Of interest for Duke fans should be Okafor’s mini reunion tour. After falling to former teammate Justise Winslow’s Miami Heat Saturday night, Okafor traveled to Minnesota—home to former teammate Tyus Jones—for a showdown with No. 1 overall pick Karl Anthony-Towns. The former Blue Devil showed teams why he may have been deserving of the top selection in the draft as he dominated Towns in the stat-sheet and finished with 25 points on 5-of-10 shooting along with 12 rebounds. Read more »
The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has just rung again, meaning it's time to take another look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. Each week the Blue Zone will look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.
Duke women’s soccer: The third-seeded Blue Devils took down No. 2 seed Florida 2-1 on the road Sunday to advance to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight. Junior Rebecca Quinn and freshman Taylor Racioppi both scored to help Duke rally from an early one-goal deficit. After missing the tournament with a down year last year, the Blue Devils have rebounded well with their sixth Elite Eight appearance in the last 10 years. They will now look to pull off another upset at Stanford Friday night before they would have an opportunity to play close to home at the Final Four in Cary, N.C.
Grayson Allen’s All-American odds: The sophomore guard looked unprepared to serve as the Blue Devils' leader last Tuesday against Kentucky, but he played like one of the best guards in the nation on his way to being named MVP of the 2K Classic during the weekend. Allen posted the first two 30-point games of his career in close victories against VCU and Georgetown at Madison Square Garden, keeping Duke in both contests during slow first-half starts for the rest of the team. The Jacksonville, Fla., native showed off the vast array of weapons in his offensive repertoire, hitting 9-of-14 shots from long distance in the two games, knocking down a few pull-up midrange jumpers and finishing in the paint with several floaters and tough layups. Allen was also 17-of-18 on free throws to improve to 89.7 percent from the line this season. Read more »
This week's edition of Sportswrap features Duke sophomores Grayson Allen and Azurá Stevens, who posted matching career-highs of 32 points Sunday in a pair of Blue Devil victories. Sportswrap is your one-stop-shop for the weekend that was in Duke athletics.
A day after Duke suffered its fourth straight defeat—a 42-34 loss to Virginia—head coach David Cutcliffe acknowledged that his squad is confronting the same problems week to week and must correct its mistakes.
The Blue Devils once again struggled out of the gates against the Cavaliers, going down 21-0 in the first quarter. A late fourth-quarter comeback came up short when Duke turned the ball over on downs in the red zone with eight seconds remaining.
“It didn’t take film to see our breakdowns. Giving them two short fields, putting ourselves down 21-0 nothing in a hurry…we’re just doing too many things that winning teams don’t do,” Cutcliffe told reporters on a Sunday conference call. “Combinations of those things have cost us and given us headaches in trying to win the last few ballgames we’ve played. We just have some real things that have to be corrected. If you correct a few things even, the outcome of a game can different.”
The defense again failed to prevent explosive plays. The Cavaliers capitalized on Duke’s lack of a pass rush, poor tackling and coverage miscues with six plays of 20 yards or more. Virginia quarterback Matt Johns threw for a career-high 344 yards and two touchdowns, and Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell led a rushing attack that contributed 143 yards. Read more »
Duke rounded out its trip to the Big Apple with an 86-84 win against Georgetown in the title game of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden. After trailing for most of the first half, veterans Matt Jones and Grayson Allen took control of the game early in the second period, with Allen scoring a career-high 32 points. Freshman Derryck Thornton followed up his breakout performance against Virginia Commonwealth with 14 points of his own.
Revisiting the three keys to the game:
Defend the 3-point line: After struggling to contain the Hoyas' shooting in the first half, the Blue Devils switched to a 1-3-1 zone at times after intermission, with Amile Jefferson manning the top of the key. The wrinkle was effective in limiting Georgetown's long-range attempts, as sharp-shooter Isaac Copeland went scoreless in the second half until two late 3-pointers during desperation time. Freshman Kaleb Johnson hit a couple of late treys as well as the Hoyas mounted a comeback in the game's waning moments of the game.
Avoid foul trouble: The final minutes of the game could have been disastrous for the Blue Devils, as veteran big men Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson both fouled out with a minute to play. This allowed the pesky Hoyas to hang around at the end of the game. The veterans have to be smarter moving forward as Luke Kennard and Brandon Ingram were left on the court as the Hoyas made foul shots and almost won the game in the final minute. Read more »
With the end of the regular season right around the corner, things are falling into shape in the ACC. North Carolina claimed the Coastal Division in dramatic fashion Saturday, setting up a date with No. 1 Clemson Dec. 5.
Virginia 42, Duke 34
Duke’s four-game losing streak started with the loss to Miami on Halloween, and the nightmare only continued. With starting quarterback Thomas Sirk returning from an upper body injury that forced him to miss one game, Duke battled back from a 22-point deficit to come into the Virginia 20 with a chance to tie the game, before turning over on downs with a well-defended pass attempt into the end zone. The Blue Devils could not overcome a strong day from Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns who passed for a career high 344 yards—a feat made easier when Duke’s star safety Jeremy Cash was ejected in the third quarter on a targeting penalty.
No. 11 North Carolina 30, Virginia Tech 27 (OT)Read more »
The good: In what was a very turbulent week for the Blue Devils—who suffered their fourth consecutive loss to a three-win Virginia squad and also dismissed three players from the team Tuesday—Rahming provided a bright spot for head coach David Cutcliffe moving forward. Rahming was touted in the preseason as a player who could come in and contribute right away with his blazing speed, and Duke finally saw that potential come to life Saturday.
The freshman cracked double-digits in catches and 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career against the Cavaliers, and led the offense as it nearly surmounted a 22-point fourth-quarter deficit. With receivers Johnell Barnes and Terrence Alls no longer on the roster, Rahming will see plenty of snaps for the rest of this year, and he certainly took advantage of his first opportunity Saturday. Read more »
The Chronicle's Nick Martin and Jack Dolgin recap a thrilling 2K Classic title game Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, where the Blue Devils outlasted the Hoyas thanks to Grayson Allen's career-high 32 points. Duke made 9-of-12 free throws down the stretch, though Georgetown's Isaac Copeland had a chance to win the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that grazed the front rim.