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Duke men's basketball takes on reigning Division II champs Ferris State in final preseason action

<p>Zion Williamson led the Blue Devils with 29 points against Virginia Union.</p>

Zion Williamson led the Blue Devils with 29 points against Virginia Union.

Hot off the heels of ACC Media Day and an opening exhibition game against Virginia Union, the Blue Devils will have one more tuneup this weekend before kicking off the regular season. 

No. 4 Duke returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday at 4 p.m. for another scrimmage–this time against Division II champion Ferris State. The Blue Devils will look to build off their victory Tuesday and play a complete game after struggling out of the gates defensively in that contest.

"Eight, nine years ago, I just saw the Division II championship on TV and it was just so good, so genuine, I said, ‘With one of our exhibitions, I wonder if we could get the Division II champion to come,’" head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes, they’ll bring a lot of the team that won, sometimes not, but it would be a way of celebrating the game. It would be cool for us to see them continue to celebrate it, so every year [now,] that’s what we do." 

Duke opened its season with a bang, putting up 106 points across the 40 minutes of action. The Blue Devils are replacing their entire starting five this season, but freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson combined for 52 points on 21-of-27 shooting. Thirty of Duke’s 40 made field goals were assisted, as fellow first-years Tre Jones and Cam Reddish both added nine dimes. 

Juniors Javin DeLaurier, Jack White and Marques Bolden returned to heavy rotation use. The three big men combined for 13 rebounds as well as 18 points. Bolden started the contest at center before DeLaurier relieved him, signaling that  Krzyzewski does not plan to play the two veterans together, and that he values Bolden’s offensive potential in the post coupled with three versatile wing players as opposed to DeLaurier’s more defensive emphasis. 

"He had a really good night [Tuesday]," Krzyzewski said on Bolden's effort against the Panthers. "Last night was the first time for a number of possessions, he went outside of his space to pursue a ball. By far, the most he’s ever done, which is a good sign. For him and his future, to learn this is critical." 

On the other side of the court, Ferris State enters Cameron Indoor on a 26-game win streak. The Bulldogs are led by sixth-year head coach Andy Bronkema and senior two-sport athlete DeShaun Thrower. Thrower, a member of the Ferris State football team as well, began his career at Stony Brook before transferring to Division II and will look to bring that savvy against an inexperienced Duke backcourt. 

Of the returning players, senior wing Markese Mayfield was featured prominently as well, averaging close to 8.9 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting and 6.3 rebounds to go with 2.3 assists per contest. 

The Blue Devils possess a fairly significant size advantage, however, as the Bulldogs only feature four players at 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9. By contrast, Duke’s entire starting lineup, with the exception of Jones, is 6-foot-7 or taller. Williamson proved throughout high school and his debut against Virginia Union that few, if any, defenders can compete with his blend of size, strength and explosion. 

"He’s really a guard. He can handle the ball, he’s one of our best passers, he can drive the basketball, and he gets the ball real low," Krzyzewski said at Duke Media Day last week. "When he’s up in the air, he can maneuver—he’s got great body control and he finishes....   He’s a very special player."

The final exhibition against Ferris State will serve as the last tuneup for the Blue Devils before a Champions Classic competition in Indianapolis, against No. 2 Kentucky Nov. 6. 


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