After pouring 94 points on Indiana Wednesday and racking up 85 against Utah State last Sunday, it looked like the Duke offense was finally starting to click.
The Blue Devils were far from an offensive juggernaut in the first half Saturday—but then the offense reappeared in the second half and carried them to victory.
In the first-ever meeting between the two schools, No. 7 Duke pulled away from Buffalo 82-59 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Following his stellar 24-point performance against the Hoosiers, freshman Brandon Ingram led the way with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting for the Blue Devils, and Grayson Allen picked up his first career double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Saturday’s contest marked the third straight game in which two different players have eclipsed the 20-point mark for Duke.
“I thought, especially at the beginning, when everyone was doing this, [Ingram] was the one guy that was really poised. He had another big game and he kept us in it early,” Jefferson said. “We need him. He’s a player. He’s really good—[there's not many] guys with his height, his length that can shoot the ball and put it on the floor and score like he can.”
The key stretch for the Blue Devils (8-1) was an 11-0 run across a three-minute span midway through the second half that stretched their lead to 20 points. Ingram, Allen and senior Amile Jefferson accounted for all 11 points during the spurt, and a temporary defensive switch to a 1-3-1 defense helped stymie the Bulls’ offense.
“We got more stops in the second half," junior Matt Jones said. “We were able to find guys early for transition points and things like that, so we kind of got into a little groove.”
Jefferson narrowly missed recording a triple-double Wednesday and saved his best efforts for the second half against Buffalo (4-4). The Philadelphia native was quiet with two points in the first half, but was a huge factor in the final period, when he hit five of six shots and scored 11 points.
Duke's senior captain entered the game shooting 67 percent from the floor and continued to prove himself as one of the team's most efficient offensive weapons, displaying nifty footwork and a soft touch from inside the paint to collect his buckets in a performance that head coach Mike Krzyzewski called “workmanlike” after the game.
“I thought it was night and day. The first half, we really weren’t thinking. We were moving 100 miles an hour, and in different directions. Everyone was going their own way,” Jefferson said. “I thought in the second half, we were more poised. We were talking to each other and I think that really helped. Guys really calmed down and let the game come to them, and we started playing together.”
Both teams struggled mightily shooting the ball right from the opening tip—an Ingram trey more than 13 minutes into the game was the first time either side connected on a 3-pointer. Excluding Ingram, the rest of the Duke lineup shot just 4-of-21 from the field in the first half—and 16-of-44 overall—as the Blue Devils shot 32 percent as a team before halftime. Buffalo was slightly worse at a 31 percent clip in the opening 20 minutes, and did not improve much in the second half. Duke’s aggressive defense limited space for the Bulls’ offense to operate in and forced 14 turnovers that led to 17 Blue Devil points.
With shots not falling from the floor, Duke worked hard at getting to the free-throw line to put points on the board. Buffalo was whistled for fouls early and often, picking up seven team fouls just six minutes into the game and committing 27 infractions overall. The Blue Devils took advantage of these opportunities, going 29-of-36 from the line against the Bulls—led by Allen’s 11—after entering the day shooting 70 percent from the charity stripe.
“We got them in a little bit of foul trouble early and we knew we were in the bonus, so we just wanted to keep attacking and getting to the line if we could,” Allen said. “It’s nice when you can get some easy ones, it kind of gets your rhythm going for the guys that are shooters. Seeing it go in the hoop at the free-throw line—that can be good for you confidence.”
Duke now takes a 10-day break for final exams and will return to the court against Georgia Southern Dec. 15 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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