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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Miami

DJ Steward shot the ball well, but overall Duke's offense struggled throughout the first half Monday.
DJ Steward shot the ball well, but overall Duke's offense struggled throughout the first half Monday.

Coming off two straight ACC wins, the Blue Devils entered Monday in as good of a rhythm as they’ve been in all season. Despite all that, Miami proved to be no pushover in the initial 20 minutes of action, as the shorthanded Hurricanes played some inspired basketball to make it a game. Duke pulled ahead late, however, and leads 35-33 entering the break. Here are five observations from the first half:

Goldwire stays in starting lineup

The Blue Devils sent out a multitude of starting lineups in their first 12 games, with eight different combinations so far this season. However, the starting five against the Hurricanes matched the one that head coach Mike Krzyzewski sent out Saturday in the victory against Clemson. Specifically, senior guard Jordan Goldwire got the nod in the backcourt alongside DJ Steward for the second straight game. Whether this is a sign that Coach K has found his go-to lineup remains to be seen, but Goldwire’s presence on the court at the tip was indeed noteworthy.

Talk about sloppy

Neither Duke nor Miami was very sharp out of the gate, as turnovers and missed layups plagued the early going. In fact, the first three-and-a-half minutes of the contest yielded only five combined points, showing that a short turnaround from Saturday impacted both teams. While things picked up after the under-16 TV timeout, the stats at the intermission emphasize the lack of precision that was on display—both teams turned the ball eight times over the first 20 minutes.

Bring the pressure

Duke showed a willingness to utilize multiple forms of backcourt pressure in order to make the life of Miami guard Isaiah Wong challenging. Whether it was two guards playing up or Jeremy Roach operating as the primary line of defense, the Blue Devils were looking to create as many extra opportunities as they could with the press. The Hurricanes handled the tactic fairly well, but if the game comes down to the final minutes, Duke may be forced to extend its pressure even further.

Johnson struggles

Despite the fact that his earth-shattering slam ignited Duke’s 79-53 win Saturday, Jalen Johnson was unable to make a major impact on the first 20 minutes of basketball tonight. The freshman forward appeared to be out of sorts throughout the first half, as the Blue Devils are still searching for the most effective way to use their versatile phenom on the offensive end. The Milwaukee native put up fairly pedestrian numbers during the opening period—two points and three turnovers in 12 minutes—and it will be interesting to see how he can bounce back in the second half.

Player of the half: DJ Steward

One of the common themes for the Blue Devils this season has been the emergence of DJ Steward as a scoring threat in transition, on the attack and from the outside. The Whitney Young product kept Duke in the game with some key buckets throughout the first half, finishing with nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field. The confidence that Steward exudes does not resemble the attitude of a freshman, and the Blue Devils have to be pleased with his production in the scoring column.


Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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