After a ten-day break, Duke returned to action Tuesday night, hosting Princeton. Following a slow start, the Blue Devils stormed to a 101-50 victory against the Tigers. The Blue Zone breaks down three key takeaways, three key stats and looks forward for the Duke squad:
Three key takeaways:
1. Welcome to the block party
Duke tallied 14 blocks against Princeton, a single-game high for the Blue Devils this season. No rejection stood out more than Zion Williamson’s in the beginning of the second half, on which he jumped so high he hit his head on the backboard.
The flurry of rejections has been a common theme for this year’s squad, as No. 2 Duke leads the nation in blocks per game, with 8.09. In fact, the margin between the Blue Devils and the next closest team in terms of blocks per game, Jacksonville, is as wide as the gap between the Dolphins and the 25th-best squad, Gonzaga.
2. Breaking free
Once again, Duke looked unstoppable in transition, and it outscored the Tigers 24-4 in terms of fast break points. The Blue Devils were able to turn strong defense into offense consistently on the night, and proved again why they are nearly impossible to stop on the move.
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3. The continued emergence of Alex O’Connell
After averaging just 5.7 minutes and 1.7 points against Auburn, Gonzaga and Indiana, Alex O’Connell has re-emerged recently as a key piece off the bench, averaging 18 minutes and 8 points over Duke’s last four contests. With concerns surrounding the team’s outside shooting, the sophomore sharpshooter will be key from the perimeter, and O’Connell sank two of his four looks from beyond the arc against Princeton.
Three Key Stats:
1. 3-for-11 from the field for Cam Reddish
Along with Williamson and R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish came to Duke as a part of a ridiculous freshman trio. However, Reddish has not lived up to the hype, and is shooting only 38.2 percent from the field for the season. The Norristown, Pa., native still did not look right against the Tigers, and is shooting just 25.7 percent over his last three games.
2. 21-for-25 from the line as a team
Perhaps the most glaring area of improvement of this Blue Devil team going into Tuesday night came at the free-throw line, and Duke came up with a strong effort from the charity stripe, hitting 84 percent of its looks.
3. Duke out-rebounds Princeton 50-25
The physicality of the Blue Devils proved to be too much for the Tigers to handle, and the rebound margin was just one manifestation of this. Duke’s 15 offensive boards on the evening bumped the team to No. 4 nationally in terms of total offensive rebounds.
The Blue Devils have a quick turnaround, and will take on No. 12 Texas Tech on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Red Raiders will be a strong test for Duke, as Texas Tech has the strongest defense in the country, according to KenPom.com. With a slow pace likely to be played in this matchup, it will be interesting to see how the Blue Devils will fare with fewer fast break opportunities.