With the NBA season gaining steam, a myriad of former Blue Devils are finding their way onto the court. The Blue Zone takes a look at the play of some of the more notable Duke stars in the recent week:
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers
Despite being one of the leading candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year, Okafor struggled to get going for the 76ers this week. Okafor’s highest shot poorly from the floor and had one of the worst games of the young season Sunday, when he only scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. The Chicago native did show that he can contribute with more than just his offense as he had 13 rebounds in the loss.
Okafor’s free-throw struggles that plagued him throughout his Duke career have shockingly become a non-factor in the professional ranks this season. In his past five games, Okafor has made 16-of-20 free throws and forced teams to think twice about implementing the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy for the center. If Okafor can continue to stay focused on the court and improve on both ends of the floor, the former Blue Devil will remain in contention for postseason honors all year long. Read more »
With the NFL season in full swing, we check in on which former Blue Devils are seeing time on the gridiron around the league.
Jamison Crowder, WR—Since scoring his first career touchdown against New Orleans on Nov. 15, Crowder has had a couple of slow weeks for the Redskins. In his last two games, the former All-ACC receiver only has three catches for 17 yards. It seemed as if Crowder would score his second career touchdown this past week against the Giants, but his four-yard catch was found to be just short of the goal line after a booth review. One possible reason for Crowder’s decline in production has been the return of star wideout DeSeanJackson to the lineup—who was battling injuries earlier in the season. Regardless, Crowder has played a key role on an offense that has helped the Redskins move into first place in the NFC East.
Vincent Rey, LB – Rey continues to be one of the staples of Cincinnati’s defense and is ranked 18th in the league with 77 tackles. Rey had three tackles and a pass breakup Sunday night in a 34-31 loss to Arizona and followed up that performance with six tackles in a blowout victory against St. Louis. In addition to his strong performance on the field, there is more good news for Rey off the field, as it was announced last week that he was nominated for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
Laken Tomlinson, OG – Tomlinson has become a fixture in the Lions' starting lineup as the season enters its final month. The former All-American guard under Duke head coach David Cutcliffe recently helped Detroit rack up 45 points, 28 first downs and 430 total yards in his team's Thanksgiving beatdown of the Philadelphia Eagles. Tomlinson even got some camera time in the second half after committing a hands-to-the-face penalty. Expect the rookie to remain in the starting lineup, as coaches are rather pleased with his performance despite a rookie mistake now and then. Read more »
After being one of the top conferences in the nation a year ago, the ACC has started slow this year with a number of upsets and close calls ahead of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this week.
1. No. 7 Duke (6-1)
Since falling to then-No. 2 Kentucky in Chicago Nov. 17, the Blue Devils have been on a tear, ripping off four straight victories. Sophomore Grayson Allen has been the offensive superstar the team has needed and is averaging 22.6 points per game thus far this season. The Jacksonville, Fla., native currently stands as one of the early favorites to win National Player of the Year, as his flare for hard-nosed offense and dramatic dunks have established him on the national scene.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s defensive adjustments have also been most noticeable of late. Although the winningest coach in college basketball history typically prefers to run a man-to-man scheme, he experimented with both a 2-3 and a 1-3-1 zone against Yale Wednesday night. The changes appeared quite successful in the second half, as the Bulldogs were limited to just 25 points, making only nine of their 30 second-half field goal attempts. This coming week, Duke will be tested yet again, as they are visited by Indiana. Despite a pair of narrow losses in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational, the Hoosiers pose a formidable challenge for the Blue Devils in this year’s rendition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Read more »
The statline:Wednesday vs. Yale: 12 points on 2-of-8 shooting, two rebounds, one assist and three steals in 23 minutes. Sunday vs. Utah State: 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting, one rebound, one assist and one steal in 26 minutes.
The good: Freshman Luke Kennard averaged 6.4 points in his first five games wearing a Blue Devil uniform but this week the 6-foot-5 guard broke through and scored in double digits coming off the bench twice. The Franklin, Ohio, native registered 12 points in Duke’s 80-61 rout against Yale Wednesday and a career-high 22 points Sunday, when head coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s squad blitzed Utah State 85-52.
Against the Bulldogs, Kennard was perfect from the charity stripe, making all six of his attempts. He added a pair of triples and made big plays on defense with three steals. Four days later, the newcomer scored eight consecutive points in a three-minute span, extending the Blue Devil lead to 26-16 in the first half against the Aggies. Kennard also improved his shooting from beyond the arc Sunday and knocked down four of his five attempts from distance. Read more »
The ACC Championship is just around the corner next weekend in Charlotte, N.C., and the conference had a strong showing in the final week of the regular season. With nine games on the schedule, every ranked team came away with a win, and just one team—Georgia Tech—dropped a contest to an non-conference opponent this week.
Duke 27, Wake Forest 21
After dropping four consecutive games in conference play, the Blue Devils were finally able to right the ship on the road against the Demon Deacons. With a win, Duke guaranteed itself a winning season for the third straight campaign, but it was not always a sure victory. Despite holding a 24-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils surrendered two touchdowns in the waning minutes of the game that kept Wake Forest in the game. But the Demon Deacons failed to recover an onside kick with 1:46 remaining, sealing the victory for Duke. Quarterback Thomas Sirk finished with 275 yards and two touchdowns—both to senior Max McCaffrey—in his first multiple-touchdown passing performance since the Blue Devils’ four overtime victory against Virginia Tech.
The Chronicle's Ryan Hoerger and Sameer Pandhare break down an 85-52 Blue Devil victory against Utah State Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Luke Kennard stole the show. The freshman scored a career-best 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting and tied his season total with four 3-pointers to key the Duke offense. The Blue Devils erupted to score the first 16 points of the second half to blow the game open.
Statline: Thursday vs. Idaho: 22 points on 11-of-17 shooting, 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks; Friday vs. Iowa State: 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks; Saturday vs. Texas State: 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block.
The good: Stevens led the Blue Devils in scoring in two of the three games played in Cancún, Mexico and was named MVP of the round-robin tournament. The star forward scored early and often in blowout victories against Iowa State and Texas State, and was crucial in preserving a six-point victory against Idaho.
Stevens was able to utilize her 6-foot-6 frame to her advantage in the post, often making easy shots over smaller defenders. The Cary, N.C., native’s post presence also allowed her teammates to find themselves in prime scoring spots, as Stevens cleared the way for Rebecca Greenwell, Oderah Chidom, Crystal Primm and Angela Salvadores to have strong performances in the tournament. Read more »
This week's edition of Sportswrap features Blue Devil quarterback Thomas Sirk, who helped Duke snap its four-game losing streak on the gridiron with a three-touchdown performance in the team's 27-21 victory at Wake Forest Saturday. With the win, the Blue Devils finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and will await their bowl fate next Sunday. Sportswrap is your one-stop shop for the weekend that was in Duke athletics.
Duke ended its four-game skid on Saturday with a 27-21 victory against Wake Forest in Winston Salem, N.C. Thomas Sirk threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score and senior Max McCaffrey caught two long touchdown passes for the Blue Devils. Sirk was able to play well in his return to the Duke offense after the team struggled on that side of the ball in the last few weeks.
Pass: Sirk was able to march the offense up and down the field against the Demon Deacons after struggling against Virginia. The Glen Saint Mary, Fla., native was 26-of-39 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Sirk was able to consistently place the ball where his receivers could go up and get it and the offense finished two long drives of more than 70 yards with touchdowns. Max McCaffrey caught five balls for 93 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter that put the Blue Devils up by three scores.
Rush: Sirk rushed 16 times for 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground, as the running game threatened the Wake Forest defense and was able to help open up things through the air. Senior Shaquille Powell rushed 15 times for 46 yards and junior Jela Duncan chipped in 40 yards as well. The ground game's ability to pick up solid yardage on early downs allowed Duke to get into manageable third-down situations and find open receivers downfield. Read more »
With the college football regular season coming to a close, Saturday's action cleared up the college football playoff picture heading into the final week of action.
Duke downs Wake Forest to finish with winning-record
The Blue Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with a 27-21 victory against the Demon Deacons in the teams' regular-season finale. Quarterback Thomas Sirk threw a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Max McCaffrey and helped Duke jump out to a 24-7 lead. Although Wake Forest rallied in the fourth quarter to make the game close, the Blue Devil special teams made a stop on the final play of the game to secure the victory. Sirk finished 26-of-39 for 275 yards and led the team to its third consecutive winning season.
Michigan State awaits Iowa in Big Ten Championship game Read more »