Despite the dominance expected of a program with the Blue Devils' pedigree, Duke has had to earn every bit of its top-15 ranking with every prior nonconference match coming down to the wire.
Luckily for the Blue Devils, Duke was able to breath easy when taking on Furman in a game that was never in doubt.
No. 13 Duke annihilated Furman 19-6 Sunday afternoon in Koskinen Stadium. Led by freshman attackman Dyson Williams, who contributed four goals, 14 Blue Devils scored in one of Duke's most complete offensive showings to date. The Blue Devils' control of the afternoon extended to both ends of the ball, with Duke allowing just one goal in the opening 30 minutes of play.
"It feels really good," Williams said. "Up until this point we were never in a game where we were able to control it the whole way, so this was a good game to get that going and feel what that feeling is like. It's a big confidence booster for our offense to know what we can produce and how consistent we can be through the course of a game."
No moment better captured Duke's dominant effort on both ends of the field than four minutes into the third quarter.
After the Paladins snagged the faceoff and drove straight to the heart of the Blue Devils, Duke clamped down hard, clogging off all routes. Although Furman's attackmen weaved around to try and create open looks, the Blue Devils formed an impenetrable defensive bulwark, giving forcing the visiting team into its third shot clock violation.
Duke took the turnover opportunity and ran with it, with sophomore Garrett Leadmon charging down the field for an on-the-run rocket right under Furman's netminder. Moments later, sophomore Jordan Ginder won the faceoff and handed it off to senior Joey Manown, who pushed forward for an easy second goal of the afternoon.
Even senior defender JT Giles-Harris got in on the action, forcing a turnover and running nearly the length of the field for a rare attempt at an attack. No Paladin stepped in to contest, and Giles-Harris catapulted a shot to the back of the net for his first-ever collegiate goal, much to the pleasure of a roaring Koskinen crowd. The Nyack, N.Y. native was one of four Blue Devils to find the back of the net for the first time ever in a Duke uniform Sunday afternoon.
"I'm very happy for [Giles-Harris]," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "Defensemen very rarely get the chance to shoot, but JT is very capable. He got out a couple times today, and we're delighted he shot and scored, and so was he.
"It's really important to show that the guys are playing the right way, to make the extra pass, share the ball. Somewhere down the line that's going to pay dividends."
In every facet of the match, Duke was in complete control. The Blue Devils spent a majority of the time with the ball, doubling Furman's shot attempts, and responded any time the visiting team found the back of the net. For a team that has struggled at times to maintain constant pressure, Duke will certainly use Sunday's victory as a benchmark for the type of intensity needed of a young and developing team.
The Blue Devils will look to continue to build with a marquee road matchup against No. 12 Loyola slated for March 7.
"It's good to be successful with a lot of people playing," Danowski said. "We've been playing pretty religiously with 31 people, but today we played more than that. Everyone has got a lot of game time, which is important as we head to spring break already."
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