GREENVILLE, S.C.—After Duke needed to win four grueling games on consecutive days to bring an ACC title back to Durham, the Blue Devils' quest for a sixth NCAA tournament title started on a much simpler note.
But some defensive lapses and hot shooting from Troy mean Duke will still have to put in some work in the second half to survive and advance.
At the half, No. 2 Duke holds a 52-38 advantage against 15th-seeded Troy in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Blue Devils have used a balanced offensive attack and are shooting 10-of-17 from long distance led by 11 points apiece from Matt Jones and Grayson Allen.
Duke began the contest in a fullcourt 2-2-1 trap—rattling the Trojans into five turnovers before the under-16 minute media timeout as the Blue Devils quickly jumped out to a 16-4 lead. Five Duke players have already knocked down at least one 3-pointer and the Blue Devils have 16 points off turnovers so far.
But Troy showed why it scores almost 80 points per game, settling down once it stopped turning the ball over to claw back into the contest.
After trailing by as many as 15 points early on, the Trojans got within eight at the 5:02 mark before an Allen triple put Duke back ahead by double figures.
Despite the Blue Devils' hot shooting, Troy responded again, using a 6-0 spurt to get within seven before a Frank Jackson layup and Antonio Vrankovic tip-in put the lead back in double figures. Allen then swished a triple from the top of the key late in the half to give his team some more breathing room.
Here are some observations from the first half:
- Against a Troy defense ranked 226th in the nation according to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, Duke put the Trojans in foul trouble early in the game but failed to take advantage, with Allen and Frank Jackson—who has 10 points—missing front ends of one-and-ones.
- Despite a significant size advantage, the Blue Devils trail Troy 19-18 in rebounds, as the Trojans crashed the offensive glass to get back in the contest.
- The Duke offense is operating efficiently so far, with 11 assists on 19 made baskets.
- Tatum's classmate Harry Giles had a rough first half. After picking up two quick fouls, he missed badly on a hook shot, prompting head coach Mike Krzyzewski to put in Vrankovic.