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Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball cruises by Colorado State behind strong team effort

Cassius Stanley is averaging 16 points on 76.5 percent shooting from the floor through two games
Cassius Stanley is averaging 16 points on 76.5 percent shooting from the floor through two games

After a somewhat sluggish start, the Blue Devils took control near the end of the first half en route to a 89-55 blowout of Colorado State, fueled by a strong team defensive effort. The Blue Zone takes a look at three takeaways, three key stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

1. Good things happen when Cassius Stanley is on the floor 

Cassius Stanley put on a show in the Blue Devils' drubbing of the Rams, scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting—his second big performance on the season in as many games. The Los Angeles native’s athleticism came up big on both sides of the floor, flying to the rim on offense and applying pressure on defense as part of Duke’s dominant full-court press. We already knew Stanley would be a gifted athlete going into the season, but his poise and grit on the court come as somewhat of a pleasant surprise. As the year goes on, don’t be shocked by more of the offense running through the 6-foot-6 guard. 

2. The full-court press is back and here to stay

While Duke is usually known for its star offensive talent, it is clear the identity of this year's team will come from getting stops at the other end of the floor. Coming off a stellar, 28 turnover-forcing performance against Kansas, the Blue Devils picked up right where they left off three days later. Opening the second half with a full-court press, the Cameron faithful watched as their comfortable 16-point halftime lead shot up to a 40-point slaughter midway through the second half. 

The showing was reminiscent of the historic comeback at Louisville last season—forcing turnover after turnover while Colorado State looked disoriented, demoralized and confused while attempting to get into its own offensive sets. While Coach K may not pull it out for every game, be on the lookout for the return of the full-court press in late game situations and marquee matchups throughout the season.

3. It’s next man up 

Following a recent era of young star-powered Blue Devil teams, the current squad’s depth and spread out talent is a refreshing change. Rather than Duke's thin seven or eight-man rotations of the past, 12 players saw action Friday night with solid contribution from everyone on the floor. While Joey Baker only scored four points in his 14 minutes of playing time, the Fayetteville, N.C., native’s two steals and aggressive defensive commitment was key in the second half and might be something to look forward to. Fans likely won’t be seeing him become a serious volume scorer this season, but Baker could be used as a sort of secret weapon to create a spark off the bench when the Blue Devils need one. 

Overall, Duke's defensive prowess is very promising, and banking less on star power allows for a more exciting 10-man rotation that relies on individuals staring in their own role. The team may not be as flashy or fun to watch as the past few years, but it could still be in for a deep run come March.

Three key stats: 

1. 18.2 percent shooting from downtown

While there is a lot to look forward to with this team, it is clear the Blue Devils' biggest weakness will once again be their outside shooting. After the abysmal display from deep Friday, Duke will have to look to get the ball more into the hands of its best shooters—Alex O'Connell and Matthew Hurt. O'Connell was a diamond in the rough against the Rams with a team-leading three 3-pointers, showing that he can step up to make shots from range when his number is called. Hurt was surprisingly cold Friday night, making only one 3-pointer and finishing with a mere nine points. 

2. 19 Fouls for Duke

It is early in the season, and while Colorado State was sent home packing with ease, the 19 fouls the Blue Devils committed along the way might be something to pay attention to. It is likely that a vast majority of those fouls were a result of the team's stellar defensive prowess, and most people, Coach K included, would take that trade-off any day of the week. However, scenarios like Vernon Carey Jr.  fouling out in the second half after playing only 15 minutes certainly raises some concerns regarding Duke's limited depth with its big men. The identity of the team is clearly defense, but if foul trouble keeps the Blue Devils' biggest producers at the other end of the court on the bench, the team could run into some trouble scoring when it needs to. 

3. Two minutes for Mike Buckmire 

As one of the top teams in the country, it is easy to get caught up in the pressure and spotlight of college basketball. But sometimes, it’s important to take a step back and enjoy the season. Late in the second half against Colorado State, junior guard Mike Buckmire—a former walk-on who was granted a scholarship last June—made his season debut, much to the approval of the Cameron Crazies. The 6-foot-2 Pennsylvania native pulled down three rebounds and nearly blew the roof off the building while narrowly missing a three as the shot clock ran down. 

It's always nice to see some deep rotation guys get action, with Buckmire's exciting entrance into the game jubilating the crowd and bench and taking some pressure off the rest of the team. While Duke may not have the generational talent it had last year, this serves as a reminder that the 2019-20 Blue Devils will still be a fun, special team to watch. 

Looking forward: 

Although Duke does not face any foreseeable trouble over the next couple of weeks, it will be important for the Blue Devils to use this time to build chemistry and get over any rust from the offseason heading into a big trip to Michigan State as well as ACC play. Duke's next contest comes Tuesday at 7 p.m. at home against Central Arkansas.

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