Photo by Ian Soileau/The Chronicle
The basic formula for one of Duke's non-conference game is as follows: Start out with back-and-forth baskets to get the other team's hopes up, crush them with a momentum- and lead-building run at the of the first half and allow the freshmen a chance to see the floor at the end of the second. Lather, rinse and repeat.
On Sunday, the Blue Devils played by the books to formulate the expected answer, a 78-58 win over Montana. In an offensive performance packed with a late first-half run and four starters tallying in the double digits, it's easy to get stuck on this part of the equation.
But the often-overlooked variable that made the formula run smoothly was Duke's defensive effort.
"I've said this since day one-our defense will fuel our offense," forward Kyle Singler said. "If we're able to just come with the mindset that we're going to play good defense, then the rest will just take care of itself."
And the Blue Devils' hustle and intensity made sure of it. Duke held the Grizzlies under 60 points, as the Blue Devils have held their opponents to an average of 59 points while putting up nearly 82 points themselves.
Singler, along with Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer, snagged a team-high three steals en route to a team total of 14. Specifically in the first half, Duke's eight steals and resulting 21-2 advantage in points off turnovers directly fueled its game-changing 27-7 run in the opening period's last eight minutes to resoundingly put the game away for good.
The Blue Devils' tenacious defense continued into the second half. Duke ended the game converting its 14 steals into 31 points-compared to Montana's six-to account for almost half of the Blue Devils' total output.
"As a group, we like to get in the passing lanes, pressure the ball and force turnovers," Singler said. "That's a big part of our defense. If we're able to speed the teams up, get turnovers and limit their opportunities to score the ball, that's big for us.
"This group of guys, we love to play defense. That's just the main thing you have to have-the mindset to lock down and stop the other team from scoring the ball."
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