It almost seems like college basketball isn't supposed to be played at 11:30 a.m.
In a sloppy game full of poor shooting and turnovers, the Blue Devils simply relied on what's gotten them this far: forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive boards.
Despite a horrendous 2-of-16 performance from 3-point range, No. 4 Duke played to its strengths to secure a 75-50 win against a feisty Brown team Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils forced the Bears into 18 turnovers and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds to keep the door closed on Brown. Duke was without sophomore Tre Jones for the second consecutive game as the point guard recovers from a mild foot sprain, but junior Jordan Goldwire held down the fort once again.
"Not having Tre hurts everybody and puts a lot of pressure on [Goldwire]." Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He knew that we weren't playing well and he sped up a couple times in the first half. But to his credit, he stayed composed in the second half, and I'm proud of him for doing that. A lot of kids once it goes downward, it's tough."
Freshman Vernon Carey Jr. continued his torrid start to the season, leading the Blue Devils with 19 points, while senior Jack White chipped in a season-high nine points and six rebounds. Thanks to their usual tough defense on lead guards, Goldwire and company held Brandon Anderson to just 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting. The Bears' star came into the game second in the Ivy League with 21 points per game.
Things were anything but smooth throughout the day for Duke, but the Blue Devils came alive at the end of the game with a 18-4 run to seal a victory in the final nonconference game of the regular season.
“We looked like we had not played or practiced in a while," Krzyzewski said. "We didn’t play well and they played well. Then in the last 15 minutes, we started talking and we played really well. Thank goodness we were able to do it while the game was still going on.”
Coming into the day, Duke (11-1) held the nation's third-longest streak of games with at least one made 3-pointer, a streak dating back to 1989. It looked like the Blue Devils would have to start again after missing their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc, but Alex O'Connell drained a triple from the left wing with less than seven minutes to play in the contest. O'Connell would hit another 3-pointer, accounting for Duke's only makes from outside, a part of his 14-point effort.
“It feels good when you see one go in and then the four points added to that were good," O'Connell said. "Just trying to get a bit of a push-out to the lead and then get stops on defense, that’s really what drives us and gets us going on offense.”
Though the Blue Devils surrendered just six points through the first seven minutes of the game and seemed in control, Brown hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game by 12 at the second media timeout. However, it wasn't until four Duke players were on the other end of the court with Wendell Moore trying to inbound the ball that Krzyzewski ripped off his jacket in an animated timeout.
"At 72 [years old], the fact that I can still do that and want to do it, for me I think it's commendable. You may not commend it," Krzyzewski joked about the jacket while patting himself on the back.
Despite shooting just 13-of-40 from the field in the first half, Duke was able to fend off the Bears thanks to its usual strengths. Brown (5-6) gave up 14 offensive rebounds over the first frame and turned the ball over 11 times.
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"We knew it was going to be a fight," White said. "From the jump, we got the gist that things weren't going to be how they usually were offensively. We've emphasized our defense, rebounding, our talk, things that we can control all the time. Our energy, so really just try to focus on that and take them out of what they wanted to do."
Blue Devil freshman Cassius Stanley looked like he was back in form early with seven quick points and two monstrous dunks and was the only offensive spark for Duke early. However, the California native picked up his second foul midway through the first half and didn't score for the rest of the game.
"We were sloppy and gave them open looks," White said. "We needed to step up to [Krzyzewski's] level of hunger, aggression and passion and just play harder. Just do our jobs. We weren’t doing a good job at the start of the game and we really got a bit of a wake up call in the locker room at halftime. We had to go out and pick it up.”
At the start of the second frame, the Blue Devils made it clear what the strategy was—feed their star big man. Carey scored the first eight points of the half for Duke, but the team simply could not find much offensive production outside of the freshman, and the Bears kept it within single-digits. It was evident from the tip that the Blue Devils desperately needed Jones' 15.6 points per game.
"Just to be stronger with the ball and be more aggressive," Carey said on how his mentality changed in the second half.
Duke wraps up its nonconference slate with a lone blemish to Stephen F. Austin in November. Next up, Boston College will head to Durham on New Year's Eve for the Blue Devils' ACC home opener and the final game of the decade. Duke last lost to the Eagles in Chestnut Hill, Mass., in 2017.