Duke’s freshmen—both on the court and off—got their first taste of men’s basketball inside Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday night. The Blue Devils lead 42-26 entering the locker room. Here are five observations from the first half of play.
O'Connell's time to shine
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski emphasized leading up to the season that this year’s Duke squad wouldn’t necessarily have one go-to starting five, and so far he’s been a man of his word. The legendary coach has used three different starting lineups through the team’s two exhibition and two regular season games, opting to start Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Cassius Stanley, Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey Jr. this time out. O’Connell—starting in his first game this year, exhibition or regular—was the lone new starter compared to the Blue Devils’ Champions Classic victory, replacing Jordan Goldwire.
Defense stays hot
After a dominating display against Kansas, the Blue Devils kept up the defensive intensity Friday, forcing three Rams turnovers over the first five minutes of the contest and eight over the course of the first half. While it was the team’s perimeter defense that shined at Madison Square Garden, Duke’s post defense showed it can be just as dangerous this time around. The Blue Devils blocked five shots in the half, led by Vernon Carey Jr.’s two. Colorado State’s Nico Caravacho—who led the nation in rebounding last season and is returning for his redshirt senior season after testing the NBA draft waters—was limited to just five points on 1-of-2 shooting from the field.
Attacking the paint
Duke struggled shooting from outside in the early going, sinking only one of its first seven 3-point attempts. But the team more than made up for those struggles with its aggressiveness, constantly attacking the basket and scoring inside. An array of Blue Devils found their way to the rim for an easy layup, with the team combining for a total of 26 points in the paint.
Joey Baker checks in
After not playing any minutes in Duke’s season-opening win over the Jayhawks, Joey Baker checked in right after Colorado State’s first timeout with 15 minutes remaining in the half. The sophomore forward was quickly subbed out after picking up his first personal foul, but returned with eight minutes left in the half, garnering some extra playing team after Jack White left with just under seven minutes remaining due to injury. Baker added a steal but did not attempt a field goal in his six minutes on the floor.
Player of the half: Tre Jones
Duke’s offense exhibited incredible balance throughout the first half, with eight different players adding to the scoreboard and nobody contributing more than eight points. But if any singular athlete stood out, it was Jones. The sophomore guard scored 11 points on an efficient 5-of-9 from the floor, adding three rebounds, four assists and a steal. Jones did miss his only 3-point attempt and was inconsistent from midrange, aspects of his game he’ll look to work on in the second half.
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