The Blue Devils clashed with Stephen F. Austin in their first game back from New York, finishing the first half with the lead, 45-40. Here are five observations from the first 20 minutes of play.
Duke comes out in the press
The Blue Devils sent three, and sometimes even four players to the inbound pass on defense, and pressed a high line once the ball crossed midcourt as well. Duke was able to cause turnovers and rushed plays right from the get-go, and used this to capitalize with a strong transition game. While they sagged off increasingly as the half went on, the Blue Devils proved that they could go to this option if they need pressure late in the game.
Turnovers a problem early
In the opening three minutes of the game, turnovers plagued the Blue Devils, sending errant passes out of bounds or taking offensive fouls on four occasions. This led to quick buckets for Stephen F. Austin, who seemed to match the speed of the fast-paced Duke squad to begin the game.
The Blue Devils turned the rock over 11 times in the first 20 minutes of play and unfortunately were unable to put the Lumberjacks away when they had a chance.
Kevon Harris doing what we expected
The 6-foot-6 senior came into Cameron Indoor Stadium looking to do exactly what he had all season—score points, and in high volume. Prior to tipoff tonight, he was averaging almost 20 points per contest, playing an average of 32 minutes a game. And perhaps the big stage would seem to be a factor, but Harris shook off an early foul call and came back to play the lion’s share of the back half of the period, leading Stephen F. Austin in scoring, finishing with a total of 20— including three buckets in a row. If Duke can find a way to shut the Lumberjacks’ leading scorer down in the second frame, the next 20 minutes will be less stressful for the Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils shot an impressive 15-for-26 in the first half, a large reason for their advantage headed into the locker room. Carey shot 4-for-6, all within the paint, and Matthew Hurt was 3-for-4 from the floor as well. Seven different Duke players ended up getting in on the action.
Perhaps lending to the offensive success was the ability of Duke to penetrate the Lumberjack defense and get the ball inside, taking only eight of their 26 shots from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes of play. Continued dominance in the paint will be a key to Duke pulling away in the second half.
Player of the Half: Vernon Carey, Jr.
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The National Player of the Week decided that his dominance would not remain in New York, and came back to Durham with a similar fire.
The freshman finished the half with 10 points to go with six boards, well on his way to a double-double in the contest. Add his two blocks to his resumé, and it is easy to see why he is an absolute nightmare to score against.
Perhaps most importantly, he stayed completely out of foul trouble, not registering a personal despite playing 15 minutes. This has proven to be one of his only flaws in the past, and a second half where head coach Mike Krzyzewski can afford to put him on the floor for as long as he wishes looks to be a scary one for Stephen F. Austin.