If there was ever a question what Duke would look like at its A-game this season, the Blue Devils put that type of performance on full display Saturday afternoon.
No. 4 Duke dominated reigning Division II national champion Ferris State in the Blue Devils' second and final exhibition contest at Cameron Indoor Stadium, scoring 20 of the game's first 22 points on its way to a 132-48 victory. Five different players logged double-digit points for the hosts, led by 32 from freshman R. J. Barrett.
Zion Williamson added 23 points of his own to aid in a comprehensive offensive effort as the hosts knocked down nearly 60 percent of their shots on the evening.
“Our guys played really hard today, no matter who we had in there,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We were not good in transition defense our last game and today, we were really good. We played very, very hard, and the fast-paced tempo for us is good because we want to push the ball down the court. I’m proud of my guys.”
Although the Blue Devils put up plenty of gaudy offensive numbers, it was Duke's man-to-man defense that took center stage. The Bulldogs turned it over on their first two possessions, setting up easy points for Tre Jones and the Blue Devil attack.
And after Ferris State finally got on the scoreboard, Zion Williamson got his first chance of the game to fire up the Cameron crowd, taking the ball away at the top of the key and going nearly the length of the floor for a thunderous tomahawk hammer.
“It lifts the whole team,” said junior co-captain Javin DeLaurier when asked about his team’s extra effort on both ends of the floor. “We talk about it all the time in practice, and in games. It might not be how many points you score, but you can make one play, taking a charge, diving on the floor and that will spark the whole team. We know the importance of doing the little things.”
Things didn't get any prettier for the Bulldogs as they tried their best to somehow match Duke's steady offense. The Blue Devils were already up 27-10 at the under-12 timeout in the first half as Ferris State began the day a miserable 4-of-20 from the field, struggling to find ways around Duke's size and length—the Bulldogs' roster features just one player taller than 6-foot-8, compared to a Blue Devil starting five with four players at 6-foot-7 or taller.
Ferris State ended the day just 19-of-74 shooting and its leading scorer, Taylor Adway, scored only 12 points.
“[Defense has] been an emphasis in the whole preseason,” Krzyzewski said. “We want to play really good defense, and you can’t take any plays off and our guys didn’t take any plays off today. We’ll face different tempos, and obviously, Kentucky will be one of the most talented teams we play, but we just have to keep moving. We’re developing really good habits.”
Duke came out of the break with an eerily similar offensive groove. The Blue Devils started the second half on a 19-6 run in the first five minutes, quickly stretching their lead beyond 60. They only continued to pour it on—Marques Bolden, who started yet again and scored 15 points, drilled his first-ever triple, as Duke knocked down 11 of its 22 shots from long distance.
“I’ve been working on it all summer, just trying to stretch the floor,” Bolden said of his newfound long-range capabilities. “I’m just trying to add onto the level of versatility with this team.”
The Blue Devils ended the day with 29 assists on 44 made buckets. And even though Duke shot 50 percent from downtown, most of it came from Barrett and Cam Reddish, who combined to shoot 6-of-13 on their 3-pointers.
“[Consistent shooting is] really important,” Jones said. “Being able to hit the outside shot, will just open up the defense for the driving lanes. We got a lot of guys who can shoot it, but we got a lot of guys that can drive it as well, so being able to knock that down will open up the driving lanes, and that just means more shots.”
The Blue Devils can now fully turn their attention to the season opener next Tuesday night. Duke will battle No. 2 Kentucky at the Champions Classic Nov. 6 in the second half of a blueblood doubleheader in Indianapolis.
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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."