Nearly 79 years ago, Duke narrowly defeated Princeton 36-27 in the first-ever game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils will aim for a similar—albeit certainly higher-scoring—result Tuesday, facing those same Tigers in Durham following a 10-day break for final exams. Princeton represents Duke’s final home nonconference opponent until Feb. 2 against St. John’s. Despite the lack of talent the Blue Devils have faced recently compared to their upcoming ACC foes, teams like the Tigers bring a different kind of challenge.
“Hartford was returning everybody and Yale was returning everybody,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said following Duke’s win against the Bulldogs. “We felt that with the young team we have—even though we should be more talented—would not be as experienced playing together. So [that] hastens our development and our maturity as a basketball team. And Princeton will be the same way.”
Four of the Tigers’ five leaders in minutes per game are upperclassmen, including senior guard Devin Cannady, whose 21.3 points per game are second in the Ivy League and 30th nationally. The Mishawaka, Ind., native’s five 3-pointers made per game rank third in the country.
Cannady is a high-volume shooter from beyond the arc—in Princeton’s most recent victory against Iona, 15 of his 16 attempts came from 3-point land. The second-team All-Ivy League selection has been extremely efficient on those attempts, sinking exactly half of his triples on the year.
Despite the challenge, the No. 2 Blue Devils (9-1) are used to containing high-scoring Ivy League guards. Against Yale, Duke limited junior Miye Oni—whose 17.9 points per game place him third in the conference—to just 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Much of that success can be credited to R.J. Barrett.
“Obviously Oni [was] one of the most important things to take away, so we put R.J. on him,” Krzyzewski said. “He is a terrific player, but we did a good job with him.”
Cannady is not the only guard the Blue Devils and Barrett have to worry about. Hailing from the same town as Barrett—Mississauga, Ontario—Canadian rookie Jaelin Llewellyn should be someone Barrett is more than familiar with. The four-star comes to Princeton (5-4) as one of the Tigers’ highest-ranked recruits in program history, and he did not take long to display that talent once given the opportunity.
After sitting out Princeton’s first seven contests, Llewellyn scored 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting in a loss to St. John’s. The Virginia Episcopal School product followed up that debut by shooting 10-of-15 from the floor and dropping 22 points against Iona. Llewellyn’s 37 minutes per game in his two contests lead the team.
As a unit, the Tigers’ greatest strengths come from playing smart, disciplined basketball—they have committed the 11th-fewest fouls and have only turned the ball over 13 times per game. But Duke hopes its pressure defense, spearheaded by point guard Tre Jones, can force Princeton into some sloppy mistakes.
“If we become the team that we are going to be defensively, Tre will be as valuable a defender as there is in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “Kind of like when [former Blue Devil point guard Steve Wojciechowski] got Defensive Player of the Year...to recognize the value of the ball pressure and how we are trying to put our defense together.”
The Tigers’ kryptonite, however, is its frontcourt. Princeton’s rebound margin ranks 263rd in the country, with the team’s tallest player in the regular rotation—center Richmond Aririguzoh—standing at a meager 6-foot-9. Duke should dominate the battle on the glass with big men Zion Williamson, Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden.
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Following their matchup against the Tigers, the Blue Devils will head to New York to take on No. 12 Texas Tech Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
“We will get to see who we are before we take a break for Christmas,” Krzyzewski said. “And then analyze what we are doing and make the appropriate adjustments as we get into the ACC.”