Late in the first half Wednesday evening, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski stood up from his usual seat and applauded.
Coach K rarely stands up from that third chair on the Blue Devil bench, unlike in years past. He instead opts to gesticulate and reserves standing for the most crucial of times.
But No. 1 Duke was up 30 at that point, already cruising to victory against Eastern Michigan. The 71-year-old had no need to rise and give praise.
And yet, a 10-second violation forced by reserve point guard Jordan Goldwire, a small moment that went mostly unnoticed in the Blue Devils' rout, brought Krzyzewski to his feet.
"The coaches have been on us, just about the defensive talking and the bench coming in and making an impact," Goldwire said. "I just wanted to come in and spice things up a bit, put some pressure on the ball and do things I know I’m capable of doing."
After giving up the night's opening points, Duke went on a tear—the Blue Devils scored 21 of the next 22 on their way to a 46-9 advantage at the final media timeout of the first half.
The hosts could've turned on cruise control after 10 minutes. There was no need to dive all over the floor or put on the full-court press or keep looking for the extra pass. The Eagles, who entered the night 104th overall in KenPom's rankings, were overmatched from the get-go.
Duke, however, wouldn't let that happen. The Blue Devils came out slow against Army last weekend, and it was clear that they were still unhappy about the result.
"The coaches have been on us hard since [the Kentucky] game," freshman Tre Jones said. "We’re really strong—we know that. But we know that teams are going to give us their best shot, so if we come out strong and deliver the first blow, we’ll have a much better start."
The prevailing highlight from the 84-46 win at Cameron Indoor will undoubtedly be Zion Williamson's first-half alley-oop. Of course, everyone's going to notice the end result—except it wouldn't have happened without a near-perfect pass from Cam Reddish that came from just inside the half-court line.
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It wasn't just about the starters, either. Duke played 11 guys in the first half and cleared its bench by the end of the night, other than freshman Joey Baker—who appears to be on his way to a redshirt season, despite Coach K telling reporters after the game that there is "no plan."
"The intensity was excellent, I thought that was the best game where we talked well. On both ends of the court we encouraged one another," Krzyzewski said.
Although the Blue Devil coach acknowledged that he wanted to see more from sophomore Alex O'Connell, who dropped eight points off the bench thanks to a pair of triples, he seemed pleased at the effort and development from an evolving group of reserves.
"They just have to be ready to go at any time," Krzyzewski added. "I thought Jordan did a really good job today of just being simple and putting pressure. He got a couple loose balls put good pressure on the ball, no turnovers and he played with good energy. Alex can score the ball, Alex continues to have to learn how to play good defense. He’s trying, he’s not there yet."
Duke already seems to have a different verve. The Blue Devils grabbed 23 offensive rebounds to go along with 33 on the defensive end. They assisted on 23 of their 36 made field goals. They forced 20 turnovers and after committing nine of their own in the first half, cleaned things up in the final 20 minutes to finish with 11 giveaways.
There's no question Duke can do the big things—it will score at will throughout the year and it has the potential to be stellar on the defensive end as well. It's the little things, though, that could put this team over the top.
"We just listen and do what the coaches want," freshman R.J. Barrett said. "The coaches want us to come out there and play with a passion, dive on the floor. Everyone dove on the floor and those are just the kinds of things that we’re going to have to do."