Duke came into its matchup with N.C. State in desperate need of a win in order to keep any outside chance of sneaking into the NCAA tournament alive. We’ve still got a half of basketball to play, but Duke jumped out to a sizable advantage after the first five minutes and leads 39-21 entering the break. Here are five observations from the first 20 minutes:
No start again for Johnson
After starting four consecutive games prior to the matchup with North Carolina, freshman Jalen Johnson has been absent in the starting five for the past three games. The Milwaukee native made his first appearance five minutes into today’s game and immediately got to the free throw line after his first touch. But after that, Johnson struggled to create offense for the Blue Devils and took a backseat to Matthew Hurt and company.
Big on big
After initially not including Hurt in his starting lineup, head coach Mike Krzyzewski penciled the sophomore in to help combat the big lineup of N.C. State, which opted to give redshirt senior DJ Funderburk a rare start. Funderburk started off slow and finished the first half with five points. On the Duke side, freshman Mark Williams racked up four points and four blocks before the intermission.
Coach K’s birthday present
I don’t know what Krzyzewski wanted for his birthday, but two blocks from Williams and two 3-pointers from Hurt in the opening four minutes seems like as good a present as any. After a hot start on the offensive end of the floor for both teams, N.C. State went through a two-minute dry spell, allowing Duke to jump out to a double-digit edge. The Wolfpack’s bigs presented some problems for the Blue Devils at times, but Duke was able to remain in control for most of the half.
N.C. State backcourt struggling
After losing leading scorer Devon Daniels to an ACL tear in late January, N.C. State has been looking for a guard to replace his production. Guards Shakeel Moore and Thomas Allen got the start against the Blue Devils, but neither were able to do much on the offensive end. The lack of scoring from the Wolfpack guards is especially concerning for them considering Duke is 5-of-8 from 3-point range, and if they want to whittle down the Blue Devils’ lead, they are going to need more from their backcourt. Beverly ended up leaving the court in pain before the half ended as well.
Player of the half: Matthew Hurt
Efficiency was the name of the game for Duke’s leading scorer, as Hurt jumped out to a perfect 4-of-4 start from the field, with three of those shots coming from beyond the arc. The Minnesota native had only combined for 20 points in the two games leading up to this bout with the Wolfpack, but 11 points in the first half today bodes well for the Blue Devils.
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Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.