After what felt like eons of waiting, Duke fans finally saw what a healthy Blue Devil team could look like in Wednesday's rout of Georgia Tech.
Now Duke hopes to show it can sustain a high level of play without its head coach on the sidelines.
The Blue Devils will host Boston College Saturday at 2 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium coming off their best performance of the season, a 110-57 rout of the Yellow Jackets led by seven players in double figures. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will undergo lower-back surgery Friday, meaning Saturday's game will be the Blue Devils' first this season with associate head coach Jeff Capel in Krzyzewski's place.
Krzyzewski said he wanted to wait until Friday to have the operation to see how his team would look with junior Grayson Allen back from suspension and freshman Harry Giles in the starting lineup. Allen sparked Duke's season-high 24-assist performance and Giles recorded his first career double-double to give the Blue Devils momentum they hope to keep before road tests against top-15 opponents Florida State and Louisville next week.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity already this year, and throughout the season guys have stepped up and that’s what we have to do right now,” Capel said on a teleconference Thursday. “Everyone has to step up.”
Like the Blue Devils (13-2, 1-1 in the ACC), Boston College has shown off its ability to get hot in a hurry from long range. The Eagles (8-7, 1-1) were picked to finish last in the conference entering the season but started ACC play with a 96-81 win against Syracuse.
Starting guards Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson combined for 52 points and 10 3-pointers in the victory, though Wake Forest contained the tandem in a 79-66 win Tuesday to continue Boston College's up-and-down campaign. The Eagles went 5-of-30 from 3-point range in the loss just one game after knocking down an eye-popping 16-of-26 from distance against the Orange.
Despite shooting just 6-of-14 Tuesday, Robinson still got to 20 points against the Demon Deacons, the sixth straight contest in which the high-scoring sophomore has reached that threshold. Like Duke sophomore Luke Kennard, Robinson has improved a great deal in his second year at the collegiate level and ranks in the top five among ACC players in points per game with 20.6.
If the Blue Devils start Allen and Kennard in the backcourt again with freshman Jayson Tatum, Giles and graduate student Amile Jefferson like they did Wednesday, Capel and company will have to figure out how to slow down Robinson. Duke's typical defensive stopper, senior Matt Jones, came off the bench against Georgia Tech and broke out of his recent shooting slump with three triples.
Another decision facing Capel is how to manage Giles' minutes. The No. 1 recruit posted a double-double in just 17 minutes Wednesday and has increased his points, rebounds and minutes in each of his four games played this year.
The Winston-Salem, N.C., native and the ACC's second leading rebounder in Jefferson give the Blue Devils a tenacious duo inside, one that will look to punish the Eagles on the glass on both ends of the floor.
“I’ve been working hard—my teammates pushing me in practice, coaches pushing me everyday—and I’m still getting better now. So I have a long ways to go but I’m going to just keep working,” Giles said after the Georgia Tech game. “It’s a good feeling [getting a double-double]. It’s a motivator going forward. It’s going to keep me working harder in practice—any time I get tired, just keep thinking about that. And my teammates are going to be on me too, so it’s something to build on.”
Giles was not the only rookie who had a strong game against the Yellow Jackets.
Tatum had 15 second-half points to lead the team in scoring, and like Jones, freshman guard Frank Jackson broke out of a three-game slump off the bench. Even center Marques Bolden got into the act with four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes, the third time in seven games the big man has logged double-digit minutes on the floor.
With sophomore Chase Jeter dealing with a twisted back, Giles and Bolden will be crucial moving forward in ACC play, making their contributions Saturday a key factor to watch.
Such storylines are normally found early in the season, but for this year's Blue Devils, adjusting on the fly has become routine.
“It’s stuff that we would’ve done in our first and second exhibition games if we had [the injured freshmen],” Krzyzewski said after Wednesday's game. “We didn’t have them, and this is where we’re at. We’re very unselfish.”
Brian Pollack and Hank Tucker contributed reporting.
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