Sunday marked the first time the Blue Devils’ heralded freshman class played in front of their home crowd in a game that counted, and the rookies did not disappoint. Duke showed no mercy toward Army on Veteran’s Day, breezing past the Black Knights 94-72 behind a powerful second-half surge. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three key takeaways:
1. Zion is more than a dunker
Zion Williamson came to Durham as the most recognizable member of Duke’s top-ranked recruiting class, with a large part of that fame due to highlight-reel dunks which took over the internet. But after watching the Spartanburg, S.C. native play in his first two collegiate games, it is clear that Williamson is far more than just a dunker. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound mammoth missed just three of his 14 shot attempts Sunday and has incredible touch near the rim. Furthermore, Williamson’s unreal athleticism makes him one of the Blue Devils’ most valued rebounders and defenders, as the No. 2 ranked recruit led the team with 16 rebounds and six blocks against Army.
2. Duke continues to impress from beyond the arc
The Blue Devils did not start as hot Sunday as they did against Kentucky, missing their first two three-point attempts. But by the time the buzzer sounded, Duke finished off the contest shooting nearly as well as it did in Tuesday’s thrashing of the Wildcats. Overall, the Blue Devils made 15 of their 36 attempts from outside, a 41.7 percent clip. If they can keep this up, there really will be no way of stopping this Duke squad.
3. Defense needs to improve
One aspect that is going to need some improvement before ACC play begins is the Blue Devils’ defense. Army was constantly able to find open looks from beyond the arc, allowing the game to stay relatively close during much of the first-half. A vast majority of these open three-point attempts came off the result of miscommunications by Duke on switches or simply lazy off-ball defense. This is a weakness Coach K must address before the team faces stronger opposition.
Three key stats:
While a 22-point victory is nothing to scoff at, it becomes a bit more reasonable considering the fact that the Blue Devils were favored by a whopping 39 points entering the matchup. There has to be some kind of unwritten rule that says one cannot take the over on a spread closer to 40 than 30, so hopefully not too many people lost money in result of Duke’s “disappointing” performance.
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Many thought Cam Reddish would fade into the background this season, coasting as the third-option behind RJ Barrett and Williamson. The Norristown, Pa. native shut all of those thoughts down Sunday with 25 points, including a 7-of-13 mark from downtown. Reddish’s seven threes marked a new Duke freshman record and were just two short of Duke’s single-game record of nine, set by Shane Battier in 2000 against Princeton.
One freshman who has seemed to take a backseat, in terms of scoring at least, is point guard Tre Jones, who took just four shot attempts Sunday. The Apple Valley, Minn. native made two of those attempts—both three-pointers—and totaled eight points in the Blue Devils’ victory. It was no secret that Jones’ role this year would be that of distributor—he posted seven assists in the win as well—but perhaps the lack of shot opportunities will cause the younger brother of national champion Tyus Jones to handle Duke’s point-guard duties past his freshman season.
After a 34-point beatdown of Kentucky which had some wondering where the Blue Devils would stack up in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, Sunday’s showing against Army made Duke seem closer to human than immortal. Coach K and company were able to use the momentum of a strong second-half to blow the game open, but there were far too many times that the Black Knights appeared to belong on the same court as their Durham counterparts. Hopefully the Blue Devils can look a bit more dominant in their next matchup against Eastern Michigan Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.