After overcoming a slow start against Yale Wednesday night, Duke took a well-deserved break to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Now, the No. 6 Blue Devils will have to shake off their tryptophan in time for a bout with Utah State at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The Aggies will try to keep their undefeated streak alive after coming off a 81-55 rout of Utah Valley Tuesday against a Duke team looking to notch another win before it takes on a loaded Indiana squad Wednesday night.
“We’ve got a lot of growing up to do,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Wednesday after the Blue Devils' 80-61 win against Yale. “That’ll be a cool thing, to grow with this team…. We’ve just got to play with energy and hopefully a number of guys—we have enough that can win as we get better, but that’s growing up.”
The Blue Devils (5-1) are coming off a decisive 80-61 win against the Bulldogs after leading by just two points at the end of the first half. Duke opened the second half on a 12-2 run, using its defense to catapult into offensive opportunities on the other end of the floor. Junior Matt Jones led the Blue Devil effort with 17 points and senior Amile Jefferson was just one point shy of his fourth double-double on the season with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Sophomore Grayson Allen also posted solid numbers in Wednesday’s runaway victory, notching 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes. Although his scoring total did not compare to his back-to-back career-highs last weekend—he scored 30 points against Virginia Commonwealth before dropping 32 against Georgetown two days later—his aggressiveness within Duke's new 1-3-1 zone defense threw Yale off-balance and helped the Blue Devils pull away in the final 20 minutes.
Two Duke freshmen who had struggled to find their footing early in the season—shooting guard Luke Kennard and forward Brandon Ingram—finally came to life Wednesday night. The duo came off the bench and combined for 27 points on 9-of-24 shooting from the floor.
The strong showing could result in yet another new lineup for the Blue Devils come Sunday afternoon. Although he has experimented with multiple different combinations of players at tip-off, Krzyzewski has yet to find a consistent starting five this season. Freshman Derryck Thornton has started each of Duke’s last three games after averaging 16.5 points during the two games in New York, but he struggled against Bulldogs with only six points and one assist.
“Brandon and Luke had really good games tonight, and they picked it up,” Allen said Wednesday. “They contributed well, especially defensively, I think they rebounded and got a lot of deflections. On offense, they were attacking really well, so I think the freshmen are improving at a really rapid pace, and that’s going to be a good thing for us as the season progresses.”
The Blue Devils may find the most success by sticking with their veterans for Sunday’s contest, as first-year Utah State head coach Tim Duryea welcomes back four starters from Utah State’s 2014-15 campaign. Amongst the returners are three of the Aggies’ all-conference selections from last year, including senior guard Chris Smith and forwards Jalen Moore and David Collette.
Utah State (4-0) has received significant and consistent contributions from its bench in the early-going, with non-starters reeling in 51.5 percent of the team’s rebounds this season. The Aggies’ reserves have nearly doubled their opponents’ reserves’ offensive output over their first four games, though that streak may end against a Duke offense that enters Sunday's game averaging 85.5 points per game.
Hank Tucker contributed reporting.
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