After struggling to put away a weak but feisty Boston College team for much of the evening, Duke finally pulled away late in the second half for a tough road victory. The Blue Zone gives you three takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three key takeaways:
Baker is the spark
After Duke’s worst offensive half of the season, the Blue Devils were looking for someone to step up and provide something new on offense after halftime. That someone turned out to be Joey Baker, who scored eight points after the break and knocked down the Blue Devils’ only 3-pointer of the night to interrupt a little swing in momentum toward the Eagles. The sophomore's trey cut Boston College’s lead from four to one with seven and a half minutes left in the game, sparking a 15-3 run for Duke that put the team in the driver’s seat to close out the contest.
Tre, Carey are constants
Early in the first half, as Duke repeatedly missed from the field and saw the Eagles take a 10-point lead, it was hard to see the game continuing along the same path. No matter how cold the Blue Devils were from beyond the arc, they still had their two most consistent players on the floor: Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. The freshman big man finished the game with a double-double, dropping 17 points and collecting 10 rebounds. He also shot above 80 percent from the free throw line for the second game in a row, the first time he has done so in back-to-back games since December. And when he was forced to play limited minutes due to foul trouble in the second half, Jones stepped up and poured in 14 points after halftime to pull away the victory.
Although seemingly nothing was clicking on offense for the Blue Devils, their defensive adjustments proved critical in throwing the Eagles off and taking control of the game. Duke went into a new-look defense that head coach Mike Krzyzewski said the team calls “22”, somewhere in between a half-court and three-quarter court defense. The Blue Devils forced a series of turnovers in this defensive set that helped lead to some transition buckets and swing the game in their favor. Overall, Duke forced 17 Boston College turnovers while committing only 11.
Three key stats:
In the first half, Duke shot 26.7 percent from the field. This included a brutal stretch in the first nine minutes of the game that saw the Blue Devils shoot 1-of-14 from the field. In the second half, however, Duke shot 48.4 percent, equaling its season average for field goal percentage and improving by 21.7 percent on its performance before halftime. Part of the reason for the futility in the first half was head-scratching misses on easy buckets in the paint that seemed to hit every part of the rim before bouncing out.
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Duke made just one 3-pointer Tuesday night: Baker’s aforementioned triple that kicked off a run more than halfway through the second period. The lone triple ensured that Duke would preserve its streak of 1,080 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, a streak that was also in jeopardy earlier in the season against Brown before Alex O’Connell stepped up and knocked down a shot from beyond the arc to keep it alive.
Duke has one of the most prolific offenses in the nation despite making relatively little use of the 3-pointer—its 441 attempted 3-pointers rank 238th in the nation—but has struggled at times when these shots aren't falling. Recently and most notably, the Blue Devils shot just 6-of-25 from deep in their loss to Louisville. Making more shots from downtown may not be necessary for a team that is so adept at getting buckets around the rim, but Duke's performance from deep is nevertheless something to keep an eye on.
The Blue Devils had an off night from 3-point range but got away with their own poor shooting in part by limiting the Eagles to an awful shooting percentage from deep as well. Boston College shot just 2-of-18 from beyond the arc, an 11.1 percent mark, and routinely missed opportunities to make big, momentum-changing shots from distance.
Duke got lucky on a few wide-open misses by the Eagles but tightened up its defense as the game went on, preventing its opponent from sneaking back into the game late. Tuesday was the 11th time this season the Blue Devils have held their opponent to lower than 30 percent shooting from the perimeter, with Boston College's two makes also tying the lowest total 3-pointers Duke has allowed this year.
Duke will stay on the road, albeit much closer to home, as it travels down Tobacco Road to take on North Carolina Saturday evening in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have plummeted to the bottom of the ACC but welcomed back star freshman Cole Anthony last week and will look to give the Blue Devils their second tough road game this week.