Once again, the Blue Devils won an exhibition game by a wide margin. And once again, a captain went down with an injury.
No. 5 Duke routed Livingstone 119-54 Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium led by the explosive scoring efforts of freshman Luke Kennard, who scored 25 points in his first start as a Blue Devil. Duke shot 56 percent from the floor while holding the Blue Bears to a meager 29 percent clip.
“It was pretty neat hearing my name called [in] the starting five. I knew I had to come in and just be an energy-giver and play my role on the team," Kennard said. "I just went out there and gave it my all. I had to show the guys that if I’m stepping up, I’m going to be the guy that comes in and really plays hard, does the right things, be in the right spots, who plays my role to the best of my ability and just do whatever the team needs me to do.”
But a second consecutive lopsided win was overshadowed by an injury to senior captain Amile Jefferson, who left the game early in the first half after appearing to turn his ankle. The Philadelphia native led the team with six points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor when he left the contest. Jefferson returned from the locker room at the start of the second half, but sat the remainder of the game beside fellow injured captain Matt Jones, who suffered a groin injury late in the Blue Devils' first exhibition win against Florida Southern Friday and sat the entirety of Wednesday's contest.
Duke's third captain stepped up in Jefferson's and Jones' absence, as graduate student Marshall Plumlee dropped in 11 points and grabbed six rebounds. Just 30 seconds after Jefferson hobbled off the court, sophomore Grayson Allen fed the 7-foot big man for a lob, which he slammed home to re-energize the team. Plumlee would follow with a series of emphatic two-handed jams throughout the game and dominated Livingstone's undersized big men in the paint. Freshman Chase Jeter also had a major impact in the post after Jefferson's departure, collecting a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“Our guys played hard and well,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Amile got hurt and we’re not a deep team, so we have two guys who, if we had a game tomorrow, they wouldn’t be able to play. Thank goodness we don’t have a game tomorrow.”
The Blue Devil backcourt shone brightest of all in their final exhibition contest. Freshman Brandon Ingram and sophomore Grayson Allen joined Kennard in double-figures, combining for 43 points. After struggling early on in the first exhibition contest, Allen got hot from the start Wednesday, opening the game with five points before the first TV timeout and finishing the first half with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Ingram also finished the first half with 14 points—eight of which came at the charity stripe—and, like Allen, finished 7-of-14 from the field. For the second straight game, freshman point guard Derryck Thornton came off the bench, as Kennard—sliding into the starting lineup for the sidelined Jones—took over ball-handling responsibilities from the tip, though Allen led the team with seven assists. Kennard finished 8-of-17 from the floor and shot 6-of-11 from deep.
“We knew coming into the game that Matt [Jones] wasn’t going to play and he’s one of our biggest leaders on the team, so we knew we had to step it up” Kennard said. “When Amile [Jefferson] went down, we knew we had to pick it up a little bit, and I think we responded well.”
Duke's defense stifled the Blue Bears, forcing 24 turnovers that led to 34 Blue Devil points. Duke experimented with a number of different defensive looks Wednesday night, alternating between man and zone and often extending into a full-court press. Although Duke enjoyed a noticeable height advantage over the Blue Bears, the Blue Devils surrendered 17 offensive boards.
Duke has more than a week off before its home opener, when the Blue Devils will host Siena at Cameron Indoor Stadium Nov. 13. Krzyzewski will have to hope Jefferson and Jones can heal by then, because the Blue Devils face a rare back-to-back to begin the year, taking on Bryant Nov. 14.
“The fluoroscope of Amile [Jefferson’s] ankle didn’t show anything except that it’s a sprained ankle,” Krzyzewski said. “He’ll get X-rayed in the morning and we’ll go from there. Matt is getting better. I would think that he’ll be ready for the first game, but we need to have him get ready before then.”
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