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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Virginia Tech

Jeremy Roach was one of the few Blue Devils to get anything going offensively in the first half Tuesday.
Jeremy Roach was one of the few Blue Devils to get anything going offensively in the first half Tuesday.

No. 19 Duke came to Blacksburg, Va., riding a three-game winning streak. However, No. 20 Virginia Tech quickly exploited the Blue Devils’ weaknesses, jumping out to a 46-34 lead at halftime. Here are five observations from the first 20 minutes:

Jalen Johnson returns, Henry Coleman and Patrick Tapé out

Freshman forward Jalen Johnson finally returned to play after missing three consecutive games with a foot injury. However, his impact was minimal in the first half, playing just four minutes and scoring two points in the period.

The Blue Devils were without freshman big man Henry Coleman III, who felt ill but tested negative for COVID-19. Duke’s third missing man was graduate transfer Patrick Tapé, who has now missed three straight games with a back injury. The absences left the Blue Devils with just a nine-man rotation.

Jaemyn Brakefield earns first career start for Duke

Freshman forward Jaemyn Brakefield has been a bench sensation for the Blue Devils so far this season. And for the first time this season, head coach Mike Krzyzewski slotted Brakefield into the starting lineup Tuesday night. Brakefield pulled a pretty spin move into an acrobatic reverse layup in his first field goal attempt, shooting 2-of-2 from the floor in 11 minutes in the first half.

Another slow start

As seems to be routine for Duke, the opposing team shot out to an early lead. The Hokies scored 10 unanswered points en route to a 27-12 lead midway through the first half. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils struggled to find their rhythm again, committing nine turnovers in the first period and receiving just four points from their bench.

I don’t take charity

You need fewer than two full hands to count the free throws Duke attempted in the first half. The Blue Devils took just nine shots from the charity stripe, making six of them. 

Player of the half: Jeremy Roach

No Duke player made up for the team’s early shortcomings against the Hokies. However, freshman point guard Jeremy Roach’s efforts helped keep the game within reach. Roach scored 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first half.

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