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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Princeton

<p>R.J. Barrett and the Blue Devils' first-half shooting struggles continued Tuesday.</p>

R.J. Barrett and the Blue Devils' first-half shooting struggles continued Tuesday.

Playing in their first contest in 10 days, the Blue Devils have struggled offensively, but Duke's strong defense has propelled the team to a 39-26 halftime advantage. Here are five observations from the first half of play Tuesday against Princeton:

Duke starts the game off sloppy and slow

The Blue Devils were scoreless through the first four minutes, with Princeton notching eight points before R.J. Barrett was able to sink a shot from the paint to put Duke on the board.

Duke came out looking to make big plays, but was unable to capitalize. The Blue Devils brought down three offensive boards on the opening possession, but sloppy play resulted in a turnover instead. The first seven 3-pointers of the game were missed and the Blue Devils were 2-of-10 from the field when the first timeout was called with a little over five minutes played. 

Blue Devils showing off to begin the game

At the start of the game, the Blue Devils appeared to be relying on their skill. Cam Reddish drove to the basket for a snazzy dunk, but had the ball ripped away for a turnover. Zion Williamson was also set up for a dunk, but the pass wasn’t timed correctly and he couldn’t find the net. 

When this proved to not be working, Barrett was quick to lead the Blue Devils in driving to the basket—shooting simpler shots around the basket instead of more difficult ones.

Duke shoots 41.2 percentage from the field

The normal Blue Devil shooting was not on display in the first half tonight. Duke went 4-of-14 beyond the arc, with few of the team’s usual threats able to hit a triple. The shooting from the field generally was not much better, as the team was 14-of-34 through the first 20 minutes.

Point guard Tre Jones and Reddish both struggled to make a shot fall early, with Reddish hitting his first basket with six minutes left in the first half. Jones was 0-of-4 from the floor, with three assists and two rebounds. 

Run late in the half to take the lead 

After starting off the game with missed buckets, turnovers and an inability to finish, the Blue Devils went on a 16-2 run halfway through the period to take the lead from the Tigers. Tough defense from juniors Jack White and Javin DeLaurier, as well as big threes from Reddish and Alex O’Connell, helped turn the momentum around for the Blue Devils. 

Player of the half: Jack White

After White entered the contest—the junior captain who is known for his effort and fight—the game seemed to turn around. White was quick to grab rebounds and pass the ball down the court, forcing the Tigers to be quick in their transition defense. 

White’s tough defense caused multiple turnovers in the game, and did much to pick up Duke’s confidence despite trailing to Princeton for most of the half. He went 1-of-1 from the field with a three, and contributed two rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal—showing his ability to be an all-around player. He also hit two big free throws that helped Duke take back the lead.


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