Thoughts on the AP Poll: Week 15

With a surprisingly close win versus Virginia Tech and a dominating performance against Syracuse, the Blue Devils jumped to No. 3 in this week's poll:

Duke handles both Virginia Tech and Syracuse, moves up one spot:

In what was supposed to be an easy game for the Blue Devils, the Hokies challenged them from the tip, eventually losing to the then-No. 4 team in the nation 91-86 in overtime Wednesday. Leading at halftime by two, Virginia Tech looked well on its way to stunning Duke. However, strong second-half play from Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook—who combined for 26 points in the period—forced overtime. It was more of the same for Duke in the extra session, with Okafor and Cook leading the way to victory. The highly touted center totaled 30 points and nine rebounds in one of his best outings of the year.

Saturday, Duke looked every bit like the No. 4 team in the country with a resounding 73-54 victory against Syracuse... Read more

Duke women's basketball Player of the Week: Week 15

The Blue Devils' got a boost from resilient post player Amber Henson on their way to Sunday's upset of North Carolina.
Elysia Su / The Chronicle

The Blue Devils' got a boost from resilient post player Amber Henson on their way to Sunday's upset of North Carolina.

Amber Henson

Statline: Thursday at Georgia Tech: Six points on 2-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block in 23 minutes. Sunday vs. No. 15 North Carolina: 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in 34 minutes.

Elysia Su / The Chronicle

The good: The No. 16 Blue Devils notched a dramatic home victory against No. 15 North Carolina 81-80 Sunday on Senior Day in yet another episode of the most important college basketball rivalry in the nation. With this triumph, head coach Joanne P... Read more

The road to Tampa, Women's basketball weekly update, Week 15

The Blue Devils' dramatic win against North Carolina Sunday was just one of many thrillers this week as the regular season concluded for most teams:

The week got off to a rocky start No. 16 Duke, which continued its late-season losing skid with a 71-62 loss at Georgia Tech Thursday, but the Blue Devils bounced back in a big way. Duke used a second-half 34-8 run to knock off No. 15 North Carolina 81-80 Sunday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the teams' regular season finale. With the win, the Blue Devils earned the No. 4 seed in this week's ACC tournament and will look to keep bolstering their NCAA tournament resume to earn a top-four seed and host the first two rounds in the Big Dance.

Duke was far from the only traditional power to suffer an upset this week, as No. 3 Baylor was stunned twice this week at Oklahoma and at Iowa State... Read more

Duke basketball Player of the Week: Week 15

Swingman Justise Winslow continued his late-season push to spark two more Blue Devil wins last week.
Darbi Griffith / The Chronicle

Swingman Justise Winslow continued his late-season push to spark two more Blue Devil wins last week.

Justise Winslow

Statline: Wednesday vs. Virginia Tech: 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, 1-of-3 from 3-point range, one offensive rebound, seven rebounds, one assist, one block and two steals in 39 minutes. Saturday vs. Syracuse: 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, 3-of-5 from 3-point range, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 40 minutes.

The good: During a crucial part of the season, freshman forward Justise Winslow has stepped up and displayed his athleticism this past week both on the road and within the comfort of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Scoring a career-high 23 points Saturday against Syracuse, Winslow soared in front of a packed stadium, putting away alley-oops and 3-point shots to help lead Duke to a 73-54 victory. The Houston native has now dropped double figures in his past 10 games—shooting 53.7 percent during this stretch—a marked improvement from his 39.5 percent clip in nine January games... Read more

Krzyzewski: Okafor 'probably embarrassed' by his free-throw shooting

Freshman center Jahlil Okafor continued to struggle from the free throw line Saturday night.
Jack White / The Chronicle

Freshman center Jahlil Okafor continued to struggle from the free throw line Saturday night.

Jahlil Okafor has shouldered a major offensive burden in his two games since returning from a sprained ankle he suffered in a Feb. 18 win against North Carolina—with a career-high 30 points against Virginia Tech and a 13-point, 14-rebound performance Saturday against Syracuse.

The one place Okafor has not succeeded has been a thorn in his side the entire season—at the free-throw line.

The 6-foot-11 freshman missed his first six attempts from the charity stripe en route to a 1-for-7 performance Saturday night.

"You have to shoot free throws well, and he has not done that," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We're going to want him to have the ball most of the time, but especially at the end of a game, and if people are just going to hack him he's going to have to make them pay the price for that."

Okafor is shooting just 54.2 percent from the foul line on the season and has attempted a team-high 155 free throws.

Historically one of the nation's better free-throw shooting teams, the Blue Devils are hitting just 68... Read more

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs. Syracuse

No. 4 Duke used a staunch defensive effort to knock off Syracuse 73-54 Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After letting Virginia Tech shoot almost 70 percent in the first half of Wednesday's game, the Blue Devils came out aggressive on the defensive end Saturday, holding the Orange to just 30.6 percent shooting en route to their ninth straight win:

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Figure out how to stop pick-and-rolls involving Jahlil Okafor: The Orange opted to go at Okafor in the post and the freshman responded with arguably his best defensive game of the season. The Chicago native forced Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas to struggle for much of the night and held him to just 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor. Okafor blocked shot on one of Christmas' drives to the basket was a welcome sign for the Blue Devils—who will need the freshman to defend well consistently to advance deep in postseason play... Read more

HALFTIME: Duke 34, Syracuse 25

In the final installment of the Duke-Syracuse rivalry this season, the No. 4 Blue Devils lead 34-25 at the half behind 15 points from freshman forward Justise Winslow at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke shot 44 percent from the floor in the opening half, but Orange head coach Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone still managed to keep the game close with nine forced turnovers. However, Winslow's ability to slash through the zone and find open shooters on the outside exposed a significant flaw in the Orange defense that will send Boeheim back to the drawing board during the break.

After a scoreless first minute, the Blue Devils blew the game open, taking a 4-0 lead in the opening minutes of the half before watching Syracuse go on a 9-2 run, thanks to seven early points from forward Tyler Roberson, who finished the half with nine points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.

Duke took a brief lead when Amile Jefferson provided a spark off the bench with a slam to give 10-9 lead, igniting the crowd, which was engaged for much of the tight first half of play... Read more

ESPN announces that Dick Vitale will again not call Duke-North Carolina

For the first time in more than 35 years, Dick Vitale did not call the Tobacco Road Rivalry Feb. 18. And despite the charismatic broadcaster's requests on social media, he will once again not be in the broadcast booth when Duke and North Carolina meet at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill next Saturday.

According to several reports, ESPN announced via press release Saturday afternoon that Vitale will once again not be calling the storied rivalry, with play-by-play man Dan Shulman and analyst and former Blue Devil Jay Bilas getting the nod again. Shannon Spake will be the sideline reporter for the contest, which will also be the regular season finale for both teams... Read more

2015 commit Chase Jeter, 2016 SF prospect Jayson Tatum visit for Duke-Syracuse

They weren't able to make it to Durham for Duke-North Carolina, but Chase Jeter and Jayson Tatum should still be in for a treat Saturday night.

The highly touted duo will be at Cameron Indoor Stadium for No. 4 Duke's contest against Syracuse at 7 p.m. to witness one of the ACC's blooming young rivalries. The Blue Devils and Orange have played three hotly-contested games in their first three battles as conference foes.

Jeter is one of two Duke commits in the class of 2015 and is fresh off his fourth state championship and Tatum is the top small forward in the class of 2016 and is considering becoming a Blue Devil in the future.

The key three: Duke basketball vs. Syracuse

Duke is coming off a close overtime win against Virginia Tech and will need to perform at a much higher level to take down new rival Syracuse. Since the Orange entered the ACC last season, the Blue Devils have formed a new rivalry with Jim Boeheim’s squad, creating three classics in a row. Here are three keys if Duke wants to extend its winning streak to nine games:

Figure out how to stop pick-and-rolls involving Jahlil Okafor

When the dominant freshman center turned his ankle against North Carolina Feb. 18, all of Cameron Indoor Stadium fell silent. The 6-foot-11 freshman missed Duke’s next game against Clemson and wasn’t missed considering the Blue Devils won that contest by 22 points. In Duke’s next contest against Virginia Tech, Okafor put up a career-high 30 points, with his performance against the Hokies showing that a bad ankle can’t limit his offensive prowess... Read more