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Five observations from Duke basketball's first half against Virginia Union

<p>R.J. Barrett led the Blue Devils in scoring during the first half.</p>

R.J. Barrett led the Blue Devils in scoring during the first half.

The Blue Devils enter the locker room at Cameron Indoor Stadium leading Virginia Union 52-36 in their first exhibition contest of the season. Here are five observations from the first 20 minutes of play:

Outside shooting

After shooting an overall 8-for-26 from beyond the three point line at Countdown to Craziness, Duke improved slightly from deep, connecting on 36.8 percent of its first half attempts. A red-hot R.J. Barrett led the way with three triples, while fellow freshman Cam Reddish connected twice from outside.

Dunks

Led by the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, the Blue Devils have no shortage on athletes. Barrett started the dunk party, before the electric Zion Williamson hammered home a highlight reel-worthy alley-oop off of a Reddish pass. However, Williamson did struggle to create other offense early on, but would heat up and finish the half with 16 points.

Good, strong defense

Although Virginia Union’s tallest player in the contest checked in at just 6-foot-8, Duke demonstrated its strong defensive prowess, holding the Panthers to just 36 points on a 42.4 field goal percentage. Williamson provided the biggest defensive play of the night five minutes into the contest when he swatted a Virginia Union layup attempt away with authority.

Marques Bolden starts

In a surprising decision, head coach Mike Krzyzewski elected to start Marques Bolden over Javin DeLaurier. Bolden fulfills a more traditional center role for the Blue Devils, while DeLaurier is a stronger athlete. The choice did not seem to impact the playing time distribution much between the two, as DeLaurier entered for Bolden after just two minutes on the bench.

Player of the half: R.J. Barrett

In the first half, Barrett proved why he, not the more well-known Williamson, was the top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2018. The forward has 19 points on the night, including 15 of Duke’s first 17 points on the night. Barrett flashed his unique scoring ability, shining both in the paint and from outside.

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