Friday night, the Blue Devils dominated Colgate in all aspects of the game. Twelve turnovers to the Raiders’ 26. Thirty-four made field goals to Colgate’s 21. And, most importantly, 110 points to the opponent’s 58.
But what impressed head coach Mike Krzyzewski most about the blowout was not the lopsided final score—it was his team’s unselfish play, evidenced by Duke’s 24 assists.
Kyrie Irving and fellow guard Nolan Smith, who had more assists combined than the entire Colgate team, continuously pushed the tempo for the Blue Devils in their new fast-paced offense. Throughout the game, the duo knifed through the Raiders’ transition defense, finding both open perimeter shooters and big men crashing the basket.
“I know we don’t have selfish guys,” Krzyzewski said. “If a team can learn to really like the pass, it’s still I think the most beautiful part of our game—the connecting passes. You know people like the dunk and the 3-point shot, and I do too if they’re ours, but I really like connecting passes.”
These “connecting passes” facilitated a very balanced attack for Duke. Senior forward Kyle Singler led the No. 1 Blue Devils (3-0)with 18 points, despite a poor 5-of-16 shooting performance, but seven other players scored nine or more points.
Colgate head coach Emmett Davis, with an undersized roster featuring only one player over 6-foot-5 averaging more than 20 minutes per game, was forced to sacrifice his transition defense in order to have more players attacking the offensive glass. Even when Duke settled for half-court play, however, the Raiders’ 2-3 zone defense struggled to close out on the Blue Devils’ shooters.
“We just have more weapons, and once we started hitting 3’s, the points just kind of go up there real quick, and we’re sharing the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “For our two starting guards, to get 18 assists in a game like this is really very, very good.”
Leading the 3-point attack for Duke was sophomore guard Andre Dawkins. The shooting guard scored 16 points on 3-of-5 3-point shooting and added three steals off the bench.
He showed off how far his game has progressed in a short amount of time. With Duke leading 14-8 with 15:02 remaining in the first half, Dawkins stole the ball off a Colgate (0-3) inbounds pass, stormed toward the basket and threw down a thunderous slam. A minute later, the reserve guard swished a 3-point shot, pushing the Blue Devils’ lead to 21-10. The Raiders’ Davis was immediately forced to call a timeout.
“We feel like we’re one of the better perimeters in the country,” Dawkins said. “Each guy coming off the bench, we don’t look at ourselves as bench players. We’re just basketball players. We come in and we know that we have to keep the energy level and level of play up.”
Although Duke’s offensive attack has averaged 95 points through the team’s first three games, the Blue Devils’ defense has been arguably more impressive. Against Colgate, Duke held the Raiders to 30.9-percent shooting and forced 26 turnovers. While the Blue Devils at times used a 2-3 zone, they continued to lean primarily on their high-pressure, man-to-man defense and collected 13 steals.
“Our pace has been fast,” Singler said. “I think that is the main thing that has been wearing teams down. Our pace, our defense, our pressure. Kyrie does a great job of pressuring the ball and pushing the ball.”
After facing three overmatched opponents, Duke’s schedule gets considerably tougher. The Blue Devils face Marquette at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo. Then on Tuesday, they will face either No. 3 Kansas State or No. 11 Gonzaga.
“Not disregarding the other teams we played, but now we’re getting into the meat and the heart of the season,” Singler said. “This is when it kind of starts picking up. When you’ve got to pay attention to more detail about teams. It’s going to just put us in a better position.”
Despite the increased level of competition, Krzyzewski stressed that his focus early in the season remains on the improvement and maturation of his team.
“[We] head off to Kansas City where we will play two real tough opponents,” Krzyzewski said. “We are just trying to get better. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we are working. We’re working hard.”
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