After a scorching start to his freshman season, Gary Trent Jr. found himself mired in a slump. Even with a 3-for-5 performance from distance against No. 7 Florida, the freshman was shooting just 19.5 percent from beyond the arc in Duke’s last eight contests.
Just 39 seconds into Tuesday night’s contest, though, the 6-foot-6 guard set the tone for what would wind up a record-setting offensive performance for the Blue Devils.
No. 1 Duke dominated St. Francis 124-67, racking up 71 points before halftime to come up just one shy of a program-record 72 points in any single half. The Blue Devils’ final total was their most prolific output since they scored 126 points against Mercer in December 1997 and their fifth-highest scoring game of all time.
The Blue Devils used a balanced offensive effort to dominate the visiting Red Flash, as Trent drained all four of his 3-pointers before the break—the Columbus, Ohio native finished with 14 points and Marvin Bagley III added 21 points along with 11 boards to lead the way.
“Gary’s a scorer. That’s what he is, and he’s come up with really big plays for us even when he’s not scoring the ball,” senior Grayson Allen said. “Whoever is going up against him knows that they’re going up against a tough guy. You can just tell by the look in his eyes that he’s not going to back down from anyone.... He’s a really streaky guy, so we know when he gets one or two going like he did tonight, to get him the ball.”
Duke (11-0) actually missed its first field-goal attempt of the night, but collected the first of its 17 offensive boards to turn what could have been an empty possession into a lead the hosts would never relinquish.
With just two players on St. Francis’ roster taller than 6-foot-8, the Blue Devils controlled the paint on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Duke scored 52 points in the paint thanks to a combined 53-point performance from the big-man trio of Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr. and Marques Bolden, whose 17 points shattered his career high.
The sophomore added 10 boards for his first career double-double, and the Blue Devils easily outrebounded the Red Flash by a 61-25 margin.
“We’re bigger and more talented than they are, although they’re a good team. I just think we played so darn hard tonight,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re better. We should have won tonight, but I thought we played well and hard for 40 minutes.”
Coming into the matchup, St. Francis (3-5) ranked a miserable 282nd among 351 Division I programs in basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, so the signs pointed to an obvious mismatch against the nation’s top-ranked offense.
It showed quickly, as Duke hit nine straight shots following Duval’s early miss to open up a 22-5 advantage. With his teammates providing plenty of scoring, Duval rediscovered his role as the Blue Devils’ floor general—the freshman dished out 11 assists despite scoring just four points on the night while only committing a pair of turnovers. The team’s 34 assists were the program’s all-time single-game record.
“We struggled with that Saturday in our last game, because even though we were bigger and we got out to a bigger lead, we wanted to make sure we dominated the entire 40 minutes and played our best,” sophomore Javin DeLaurier said. “It’s a lot of fun playing with each other. It doesn’t matter who scores, it’s a Duke bucket. At the end of the game, we won by a wide margin, and it’s a lot of fun playing.”
From there, the offensive onslaught only continued. Duke stretched its lead to as many as 39 in the first half, and by the eight-minute mark of the second half, the Blue Devils had already scored 100 points for the first time this season.
With the contest well in hand from the opening minutes, Krzyzewski had plenty of time to utilize his bench. Nine Blue Devils played before intermission, and as the contest wound down, Duke dug deeper into its reserves—Jordan Tucker played for the first time since the Blue Devils’ season opener, adding six points in eight minutes to pad the margin.
But the highlight of the night may have come from the final man added to Duke’s roster, walk-on guard Mike Buckmire. After a chase-down block from Justin Robinson, Buckmire collected the rebound and went coast-to-coast, hitting the layup through contact and knocking down his and-one attempt at the charity stripe for his first three points as a Blue Devil.
“That’s a thrill for a kid to score,” Krzyzewski said. “The students gave him a great ovation when he came in, then he hit the free throw, too—that was really something because usually they’re not going to make the free throw. He kept the thrill going for a little bit longer.”
Duke will now turn its focus to conference play, heading to Chestnut Hill, Mass., Saturday afternoon for its ACC opener against Boston College. The Eagles hung tough with Duke last season in Durham and return their three leading scorers, including preseason second-team All-ACC guard Jerome Robinson.
“We’re 0-0,” Bagley said. “All these games we’ve won, we have to put them behind us. It’s going to get tougher but I think we’re ready. We’ve worked so hard. We’re battle-tested and I think that we’ll be ready for this conference.”
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."