The Blue Devils finally put together a complete performance Tuesday night, putting up record-setting numbers in a 54-point blowout win against St. Francis.
That came on the heels of another strong showing last Saturday against South Dakota, perhaps suggesting that Duke has finally turned the corner after a string of slow starts and late comebacks.
But those two games were against overmatched nonconference opponents, and now the top-ranked Blue Devils must turn their attention to the start of ACC play as they head north to take on Boston College at noon Saturday. The game at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., will be Duke's last before a 10-day break for final exams.
The 124-point offensive explosion against St. Francis was a statement by a Blue Devil offense that has been potent all year. Duke has been held to fewer than 80 points just once and ranks first in the country in offensive efficiency, according to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy. The team set a program record for assists with 34 in the game, including 11 from freshman point guard Trevon Duval.
“We played well and hard for 40 minutes,” Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We tried to do a few things early in the second half that were uncharacteristic, but they got out of that. They shared the ball, even the group at the end.”
Freshman Gary Trent Jr. had been mired in a shooting slump for much of the season, shooting worse than 30 percent from beyond the arc before facing the Red Flash, but snapped out of it Tuesday, scoring 14 points and knocking down four triples. His shooting stretched the defense and gave Duke (11-0) another option on the perimeter next to senior Grayson Allen.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the Blue Devil defense stepped up and held St. Francis to just 67 points, the fifth time this year Duke has held an opponent to fewer than 70 points. The Blue Devils’ size advantage allowed them to deter drives to the basket, and the perimeter length of Duval, Allen and Trent made things difficult for shooters.
“We really got better on the defensive end,” freshman Marvin Bagley III said. “We were talking way more than we usually do in the past games when we were down and trying to fight back. We really tried to focus on our talking and our communication, and I could hear it, I could feel it. We’re getting better. We can only get better from here.”
Boston College (6-3) has had a slow start to the season, losing to Texas Tech, Providence and Nebraska and barely scraping by against Colgate. The Eagles have had trouble scoring against better teams, as they failed to reach 70 in all of their losses.
The team is led by the tandem of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, who combine for almost 32 points per game, but lost graduate transfer forward Deontae Hawkins for the season this week due to a knee injury.
Boston College does have a week to prepare for its ACC opener, but the Eagles struggle to take care of the ball and only have two players taller than 6-foot-8 in their regular rotation. Bagley will look to extend his six-game double-double streak, and fellow freshman Wendell Carter Jr. could also continue to crash the offensive glass and rack up rebounds and put backs.
This is Duke’s second true road game of the year, following last week’s contest against Indiana, and the freshmen will get their first taste of an ACC road environment in preparation for away games against top-15 foes Miami and North Carolina later in the year.
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"They should be ready after Indiana. If they’re not, I don’t have anything to say to them. What we faced at Indiana is going to be one of the best crowds we’ll face all year," Allen said. "These guys are very mature and poised for freshmen, so I don’t have any worries about them."