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

<p>Alex O'Connell sparked the Blue Devils offense with key buckets off the bench.</p>

Alex O'Connell sparked the Blue Devils offense with key buckets off the bench.

Yale managed to keep the game close for much of the first half, but Alex O'Connell sparked a Duke run late in the period to open up a double-digit lead. Here are five observations from the first half of play as the Blue Devils enter the locker room with a 41-32 advantage:

Javin DeLaurier replaces Marques Bolden in the starting lineup

With an athletic Yale team coming to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday evening, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski decided to insert Javin Delaurier as the Blue Devils’ starting center. This is DeLaurier’s first start of the season, and it comes on the heels of the junior’s strong performance against Hartford Wednesday, when he posted season-highs in points, blocks and steals. 

DeLaurier fouled Miye Oni on the Bulldogs’ opening possession, immediately showing his season-long hacking issues. However, the 6-foot-10 captain showed his worth immediately, throwing down a highlight putback dunk off an R.J. Barrett miss in transition for Duke’s first points of the night.

Duke starts out slow again

After entering the locker room with just a nine-point lead over the lowly Hawks in their last game, the Blue Devils once again failed to pull away early, and Yale led 22-21 12 minutes into the contest. Poor outside shooting plagued Duke again, and the Blue Devils connected on just 2-of-9 3-point attempts, with the first make coming on an Alex O’Connell shot with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

However, Duke stormed ahead in the blink of an eye, swarming the Bulldogs on defense and overpowering them on offense, and entered halftime with a nine-point lead. 

Cam Reddish’s struggles continue

After scoring just five points on 2-for-12 from the field in his previous contest, Cam Reddish seemed lost on the offensive end once again, putting up just two points on an inefficient 20 percent conversion rate.

On the Blue Devils’ first possession, Reddish was blocked on his first attempt, before missing an open baseline jumper. The Norristown, Pa., native did not score for the first eight minutes, and is not performing at the same level as Duke’s other elite freshmen Barrett, Tre Jones and Zion Williamson.

Duke’s defense keeps it in the game

With a lethargic offensive performance, it was the Blue Devil defense that led the way for the team, forcing 16 Yale turnovers. The aggressive defense created offensive opportunities for Duke, as it scored 13 fast break points in comparison to the Bulldogs’ four, and was key in the run late in the first half that allowed the Blue Devils to extend the lead to double-digits.

Player of the half: Tre Jones

With nothing falling from outside for the Blue Devils, it was point guard Tre Jones who kept the game in order for the squad. Although he had only four points, Jones tied for the team lead in assists and steals, generating offense when nobody else seemed to be able to. The freshman guard impressively did not turn the ball over yet again, demonstrating his savvy as a floor general.


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