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One word versus Notre Dame: Efficient

DJ Steward's breakout game is likely a sign of things to come from the guard that was highly recruited out of high school.
DJ Steward's breakout game is likely a sign of things to come from the guard that was highly recruited out of high school.

After every Duke men's basketball game, the Blue Zone provides you with a single word that encompasses and summarizes the game. That word is accompanied by a single stat and a single player. Read our feelings on their recent matchup with Notre Dame:

One word: Efficient

Duke displayed impressive offensive potency in its victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils managed to stay ahead the entire game due to consistent scoring from a variety of players. In matches earlier this season with Michigan State and Illinois, Duke struggled at times to find space and open looks at the basket. The Blue Devils avoided these scoring droughts against the Fighting Irish with a focus on teamwork and avoiding “iso-ball”. 

Duke’s continuous ball movement spread out the defense and there was a noticeable emphasis on not settling for sub-par shots. Forward Matthew Hurt exploited mismatches from strategic screens and switches with his effective turn-around jumpshots. Guard Jordan Goldwire’s energy created layups and open threes for himself and his teammates.

Duke’s roster is very talented, but with its youth comes inexperience. The Blue Devils settled into this game by creating and hitting high percentage shots, taking pressure off of individual players, and establishing a rhythm that carried them to a victory in their first ACC matchup of the season. 

One stat: 51.7 field goal percentage

Duke’s offensive efficiency is displayed by its high shooting percentage, particularly from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils shot 31 for 60, or 51.7 percent from the field -- an impressive mark for any team. 

Even more impressive is that Duke actually converted a higher percentage of its shots from 3-point range, eight-for-15, or 53.3 percent. To put these numbers into perspective, the Blue Devils did not shoot above 23 percent from deep or above 41 percent overall in either of its losses to Michigan State and Illinois. 

Against Notre Dame however, shots were falling for the Blue Devils, and this is no coincidence. Duke’s offense looked confident throughout the game, especially its freshmen. Confident shooters are dangerous shooters, with guards DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach, and forward Jaemyn Brakefield all converting two or more 3-point shots in the ACC showcase against Notre Dame. The freshman center Mark Williams contributed to this display of efficiency by confidently using his length to make hook shots close to the basket, going two-for-two on the night. 

The Blue Devils’ game plan and creation of open shots were important, but the players stepping up and making an astonishingly high percentage of these baskets also deserve their share of credit. 

One player: DJ Steward

The injury of forward Jalen Johnson led many to wonder which players would rise to the occasion. A multitude of Blue Devils had breakout games, especially the freshmen players. But it was Steward who made the largest statement against Notre Dame. The freshman from Chicago made his presence known through his scoring, defense and rebounding. Steward scored 16 points (second on the team only to Hurt's 18), and impressed many with his effectiveness from beyond the arc, shooting three-for-four from downtown.

Steward was a defensive nightmare for the Fighting Irish, highlighted by his late game steal which led to a fastbreak layup. As if Steward's horizontal explosiveness through his scoring and defensive play-making was not enough, the 6-foot-2 guard out-rebounded all but one of Notre Dame’s players, with seven rebounds of his own. 

What makes Steward’s performance particularly exciting is the wide variety of game aspects that he positively impacted. While the Chicago native was not the only player who displayed such energy and talent on the court, his versatile presence was instrumental in Duke’s impressive performance. 


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