Marvin Bagley III couldn’t see out of his left eye for 45 minutes when Javin DeLaurier accidentally poked him in the eye against Michigan State.
Three days later, his vision was more than just fine.
Although the rest of the team besides Wendell Carter Jr. seemed to be in a hangover in the first half after No. 1 Duke’s thrilling win against the No. 2 Spartans, Bagley didn’t miss a beat.
The former No. 1 recruit led the Blue Devils to a 78-61 win against Southern at Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday night, scoring 19 points—including nine of Duke’s first 16—and grabbing 11 rebounds before fouling out. Carter was also a force in the paint, scoring 20 points with 11 rebounds against an undersized team that ranked 330th out of 351 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency ranking.
“I might have 20 points tonight, but we came out and did not play as a team. We were very selfish and very immature,” Carter said. “Just came out of a great win against Michigan State and we didn’t come out and play like we did against Michigan State.”
Despite a clear-eyed Bagley and Carter’s exploits, the Blue Devils struggled to separate themselves from the Jaguars early, finding themselves tied at 27 near the end of the first half against a team that lost by nearly 50 to Illinois.
Duke’s guards were unproductive—the starting guard combo of Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval went just 9-of-27 from the field and combined for 28 points.
But despite struggling for most of the night, Allen stepped up and sparked a 10-0 Duke run late in the first half on a breakaway transition layup to help it begin to take control.
Duke (4-0) was outrebounded 7-5 to start the game against a team that has just one player above 6-foot-8 and played sloppy basketball in the opening minutes. The Blue Devils turned the ball over five times in the first seven-plus minutes and nine times in the first half, allowing Southern (0-4) to hang around despite being in the double bonus for all but 10:17 of the first half.
Although the Blue Devils struggled, head coach Mike Krzyzewski is nowhere near panicking.
“What happens is if you’re not playing together, you gravitate toward trying to get your own. That doesn’t mean you start out that way,” Krzyzewski said. “Let’s not get into a scenario where that’s what our guys are. We play one game and we don’t win by 40 points and suddenly everyone’s out for their own. That’s not how it is.”
Although Bagley was efficient from the field, he struggled from the line once again, going 5-of-9 from the charity stripe. Bagley and Carter ended up with 26 of Duke’s 42 points at the half—Alex O’Connell was the first outside of that pair to score nearly 11 minutes into the game.
Bagley said he is back to normal vision despite not being able to see for parts of the game even when he returned to the bench from the locker room, and is confident that he will be able to fix his shot.
“I know I can shoot free throws,” Bagley said. “They’re just not falling for me right now. I’ve been shooting free throws my whole life and I’ve been making them. It’s just going to take little adjustments and small things, and it’ll eventually fall. I’m confident in that.”
The Blue Devils never really exploded past the Jaguars like expected, struggling to shoot even in the second half. Duke made just 4-of-20 3-pointers and struggled from the line, finishing just 24-of-37, and it outscored Southern by just seven points following the break.
After scoring a career-high 37 points against Michigan State, Allen had a quiet night at Cameron, scoring just 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting—including 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. But that certainly didn’t rattle his confidence.
“I think I would have made the next seven in a row if I took seven more,” Allen said.
Krzyzewski used a deep rotation once again, with 10 players seeing three or more minutes. O’Connell saw the most time off the bench, scoring five points in 14 minutes. Krzyzewski said he liked what Marques Bolden brought off the bench—he was behind Javin DeLaurier and Antonio Vrankovic and was -3 in plus-minus, but finished with four points and two rebounds.
With the guards’ struggles, Allen said that Duke’s offense worked better when it didn’t run any plays and worked through the bigs.
“It’s very important for our team offensively to play through them,” Allen said. “They carried us scoring-wise, really the whole game, and in the second half we got a couple freebies and easy ones, but really it’s them that carried our offense. They can do that and they should do that.”
The Blue Devils will return to the floor Monday night for a matchup with Furman at Cameron.
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Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.