Entering the contest, the Blue Devils were seeking revenge against an N.C. State team that embarrassed them in Raleigh just under two weeks prior. And revenge they got, taking down the Wolfpack 88-69 in the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Zone breaks down three key stats, takeaways and takes a look forward for Duke:
Three key takeaways:
A spark of momentum
The last few weeks have been rough for the Blue Devils. After seeming like it was on its way to entering the NCAA tournament as a national title favorite, Duke lost three of its four prior games coming into Monday’s contest against N.C. State. Even much of the first half of Monday's game was precarious for the Blue Devils, as turnovers and abysmal shooting made it seem like the losing trend was about to continue.
The second half, however, was a different story, with Duke returning to the form we’ve seen it achieve multiple times this year. The Blue Devils were clicking on all cylinders as they pulled away from the Wolfpack, and that performance will go a huge way in restoring confidence as the games really start to matter.
Big day for J-Rob
Justin Robinson’s veteran presence was on full display Monday night. The San Antonio native finished with a career-high 10 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes. To say Robinson was a spark plug is an understatement. His impact transcended the box score, as the two huge threes he hit in the first half galvanized the Blue Devils and saved them from falling out of contention early. Beyond his impact in just this game, Robinson has been playing solid basketball lately, and could find himself playing more minutes throughout March.
Cassius Stanley can jump high
We’ve known this for a while, but today confirmed it. I’ll let these videos do the explaining if there’s any ambiguity:
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Three key stats:
Duke has recently become more and more reliant on Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. to shoulder its scoring burden, so six players scoring in double digits against N.C. State is an extremely auspicious sign. Jones, Carey, Robinson, Jordan Goldwire, Cassius Stanley and Wendell Moore Jr. all scored 10 or more points, with Stanley leading the way at 18.
Stanley struggled mightily in the loss against Virginia Saturday, shooting 1-of-9 from the field, and early on against the Wolfpack it looked like that cold streak might continue indefinitely. But the Los Angeles native caught fire as the game progressed, helping lead Duke to a blowout win.
Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, Joey Baker and Alex O’Connell combined to play a total of 10 minutes Monday night. O’Connell and White didn’t see any playing time at all, with DeLaurier and Baker taking the floor for only six and four minutes, respectively. It seems like March 2 is late to be making rotation changes, but for the most part O’Connell, White and DeLaurier have failed to contribute consistently. Baker has been a spark plug with solid 3-point shooting all year, but his style of play has never made him conducive to high usage.
If tinkering with the lineup could give a player like Robinson the opportunity to emerge as a solid option in March, it could be exactly what the recently-stagnant Blue Devils need to ignite a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
When Duke welcomes North Carolina to Durham this Saturday, it'll have been 381 days since Zion Williamson blew out his shoe in last season's heartbreaking home defeat against the Tar Heels. While the matchup isn’t as hyped as last year (Barack Obama most likely won’t be making a repeat appearance), the Duke vs. North Carolina game is always a day basketball fans can celebrate. Many students have even been living in a tent since early January just to be in attendance.
And for the players who will be playing their final home game as well as the students who will be attending their final contest in Section 17 in Camron Indoor Stadium, this one will mean even that much more to them.
To build on the last takeaway, this is where the fun begins. The Blue Devils couldn’t ask for a better way to jump into the North Carolina game, the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament than the performance they were able to put together in the second half of Monday's win. A Duke team that can harness that confidence and on-court synergy for the rest of the month could do damage in an NCAA tournament that’s bound to be up for grabs.