In their first game in 21 days, the Blue Devils made Jon Scheyer’s head coaching debut a comeback at Cameron.
While Boston College fired on all cylinders offensively in the early going, No. 21 Duke relied on a balanced attack and some magic from Wendell Moore Jr. to win its second straight contest to begin ACC play, taking down the Eagles 83-82 Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of poise, being out for three weeks… or not playing for three weeks and [to] have a couple games postponed,” Scheyer, who filled in for head coach Mike Krzyzewski while the latter is quarantined due to a potential COVID-19 exposure, said.
Just over three minutes separated Duke (4-2, 2-0 in the ACC) from what would have been a deflating loss, as the Blue Devils found themselves trailing 73-71 at the final TV timeout. But a charge taken by Moore right before that stoppage appeared to be exactly what the home team needed. Three possessions later, Duke regained the lead, as buckets from Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward—both coming off offensive rebounds—shifted the momentum.
The final two minutes were a back-and-forth affair. Hurt knocked down a trey from the left corner to give the Blue Devils a 78-75 lead with 1:31 remaining, but Boston College’s CJ Felder responded with a layup to bring the Eagles (2-8, 0-4) back within one. However, Moore once again delivered the next time down the floor, catching an inbound pass with the shot clock winding down and hitting a fadeaway jumper to give Duke some needed breathing room.
“Wendell was one of the options,” Scheyer said on the play that was drawn up in the huddle prior to that inbound pass. “He broke the play off, and I’m glad he did. It worked out even better than what we drew up. He made a heck of a play and made us look good.”
Moore finished with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting, easily his season-high in what has been a disappointing campaign up to this point for the captain.
“Man, it feels great,” Moore said. “And I mean, really the biggest thing for me is my teammates were behind me the whole time. Even when I was going through the struggle, they always had my back.”
Facing a 43-35 halftime deficit, Duke came out of the locker room with a completely different energy than what it displayed in the first period. Guards Jeremy Roach and Jordan Goldwire put the pedal to the meddle and attacked the Boston College defense, a far cry from the stagnant offense that defined the opening half. When Hurt ripped the net from distance to knot the score at 46, the Blue Devils had made it clear that tonight would be a fight to the finish.
“Our energy got better,” Steward said. “Shoutout to Jordan Goldwire, Matt Hurt and Wendell—they really led us today.”
Hurt finished as Duke’s second-leading scorer, posting 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from downtown.
It was Moore, however, who really stood out during Duke’s second-half rally, as the sophomore displayed everything in his diverse skill set. The North Carolina native was proficient from the foul line, showed a knack for finishing in traffic and even connected on some difficult mid range shots.
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“We’re a different team [with Moore playing well],” Scheyer said. “His versatility is something that we’ve missed. We have seven new guys, so anybody who has experience, their veteran leadership is important.”
The Eagles impressed over the first 11-and-a-half minutes, as the visitors jumped out to a 29-17 lead thanks to some stellar 3-point shooting and multiple head-scratching Duke turnovers. The contrast between the two teams was evident to begin the contest, as Boston College came out aggressive while the Blue Devils seemed content with settling for jumpers without much ball movement or motion.
The Eagles finished 9-of-16 from distance in the game, while Duke shot 8-for-22 from deep.
Boston College received some unexpected contributions en route to the impressive opening stanza, particularly from guard Rich Kelly. With leading scorer Wynston Tabbs not in the starting lineup, Kelly took it upon himself to punish Duke on dribble drives, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor.
The Blue Devils were stuck in the doldrums throughout the first half, with the rust from their extended layoff proving to be difficult to shake off. Defensively, Duke struggled rotating out to shooters, while the offensive end posed its own set of problems. Carelessness and an inability to convert on simple layups and free throws plagued Scheyer’s squad, especially compared to how well Boston College executed out of the gate.
Despite Goldwire providing seven points and three steals and Moore dropping nine points of his own in the first 20 minutes, Duke found itself trailing by eight at the intermission. The deficit would have been even greater had the Blue Devils not gone on a 10-2 run in the final two minutes of the half, a stretch capped off by a Steward triple from the left wing in the waning seconds of the period.
Duke quickly erased the Boston College lead out of the locker room, however, continuing to battle over the final 20 minutes to claw out the win.
Next, the Blue Devils are set to host Wake Forest Saturday at 12 p.m. looking to continue their undefeated ACC start.