Before Duke’s 107-56 exhibition win over St. Francis Xavier Friday, X-Men players perused the Duke Store buying Blue Devil apparel. As much as the Canadian national collegiate runner-ups wanted to win, they knew that their United States barn-storming tour was as much about the experience as the basketball.
“We had to forget about what’s on their jersey and play the game,” St. Francis Xavier head coach Steve Konchalski said. “[But] you can’t walk in there without knowing that Grant Hill and so many great players for Duke and with other jerseys on, the Jordans and Duncans and everybody that played in this gym, it can’t help but be a great experience for our kids.”
Blue Devil big men Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams quickly put a damper on the experience. The pair of juniors abused the X-Men all night, combining to shoot 23-for-26 for 52 points.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski used the names of Duke greats Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Shane Battier after the game when describing how he planned to use his big men this season.
“If he’s going to use our names in the same sentence, that’s a tremendous compliment to be a big guy in this program,” Randolph said. “I’ve got such a long way to go before I can be mentioned in the same sentence as them.”
Despite the rough tactics of St. Francis Xavier, Williams frequently caught lobs from his teammates and finished over defenders using either hand. Staying out of foul trouble, Williams scored 32 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked 6 shots in 26 minutes.
“I thought he was really balanced in his moves,” Krzyzewski said. “Everything he did tonight he had a really good base.... I thought he showed a lot of poise tonight.”
Randolph demonstrated his versatility while scoring 22 points to complement Williams. Besides his typical post moves, the forward drove to the basket from the perimeter on one-second half possession, something he said he expects to do more often this season. The junior did get into foul trouble, picking up his third personal early in the second half, but he did not pick up another foul from that point.
“A lot of times last year I could have three fouls and not have to worry about picking up a fourth,” Randolph said. “Now it’s like, I don’t want to stop playing aggressively on the defensive end, but I’ve got to remember that the team needs me to be out on the court. To go and pick up stupid fouls is just kind of selfish on my part.”
While Williams and Randolph did most of the scoring, freshman forward David McClure added the hustle plays off the bench that Krzyzewski expects him to make all season. Quickly involving himself in the game, McClure recorded a rebound, a field goal and an assist in his first three minutes on the court.
McClure’s effort was evident in a key play at the end of the first half that brought the packed student section to life. He soared for a rebound before falling to the court and passing the ball to Daniel Ewing, who dished it off to J.J. Redick for a wide-open three-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
“You look at the stat sheet and say, ‘Well, he was okay,’ [but] Dave McClure was really good, because he made plays throughout,” Krzyzewski said. “You don’t have to make a lot of shots when you have Shav, Shelden, J.J., Daniel, and then Lee [Melchionni] is really good. We should score points, we just have to defend and make plays.... [McClure] made about eight or 10 plays.”
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Ewing shrugged off a rough start—he shot 3-for-11 in the first half, including 1-for-7 from three-point range—to finish with 16 points. Redick shot 4-8 from three-point range and scored 18 points.
Ewing and Redick, along with point guard Sean Dockery, shared primary ball-handling responsibilities. The three combined for 12 assists and only four turnovers while repeatedly beating the St. Francis Xavier press.
DeMarcus Nelson, Duke’s other ball-handler, missed the game but Krzyzewski said his recovery was on schedule and expects him to return for the regular season opener Nov. 20.
Konchalski said one of his goals entering the game was to challenge the more talented Blue Devils in a way that an all-star team, like the Nike Elite team or the EA Sports All-stars, could not. Krzyzewski said he believed the X-Men achieved that goal and praised his opponent’s cohesiveness and strategy.
“This team has played six games, so we knew that, scheduling them, that they would come here knowing how to play and they would have a system,” Krzyzewski said. “They gave you different looks, there’s no question about it, that’s one of the main reasons we wanted to play them.... For us, it was a really good night, because we played against a well-coached team that we’re more talented than, but still, those kids played hard the whole game.”