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

Wendell Moore Jr., exited the game in the first minute with a leg injury, but was able to return minutes later.
Wendell Moore Jr., exited the game in the first minute with a leg injury, but was able to return minutes later.

Duke men’s basketball is halfway through the second leg of the Veterans Day Weekend Showcase with a 33-29 lead over Campbell.

Wendell Moore’s brief absence

Less than 12 seconds into the game, junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. took a fall while attempting to fill the lane off the opening tip. He left the game with an apparent leg injury and headed toward the locker room, leaving Duke with a glaring absence from the lineup for the next few crucial minutes. After putting up a triple-double in Friday’s win against Army, Duke needed an extra boost from wings while he was out.

AJ Griffin hit his first career 3-pointer just over five minutes in, and he was useful defensively as well, guarding the Fighting Camels’ star wing Cedric Henderson Jr. until Moore ultimately reentered the game with 13:00 on the clock. Moore’s brief absence and swift return eased Duke fans’ worries about the team’s slow start.

Exploiting the size advantage

Campbell’s tallest starter was 6-foot-8, shorter than both Duke’s 6-foot-10 Paolo Banchero and 7-foot Mark Williams, allowing the Blue Devils to push the ball down low and get a handful of baskets around the rim. However, this meant that Campbell’s five-out offense could exploit Duke’s bigs’ limited movement around the floor and hit a couple of threes to get out to an early lead. 

Defensively, things picked up for Duke after the first media timeout when Banchero blocked a Campbell layup attempt and Moore took the floor, which catalyzed a run that brought the Blue Devils back into the game. In the end, though, it was Duke’s 3-point shooting that made the difference.

3-and-D for Campbell

Campbell came out of the gates fast, able to get the ball inside quickly and also had spot-up shooters ready to pull the trigger outside. The 18-8 lead Campbell mounted within the first several minutes meant Duke was playing from behind for a solid portion of the half which noticeably put more pressure on the younger players on the Blue Devil roster and the outside defense. We knew the 3-point threat was real, as the Fighting Camels were extremely efficient from beyond the arc last season, and Duke has struggled to stop it so far. The Campbell 3-point attack led to a 6-of-15 mark, keeping the Camels on top for most of the half.

Playing from behind

The previous three points really come together to form this final observation: Duke was, in effect, playing from behind for the first time all season after defeating Kentucky and leading against Army from start to finish. It was unclear how that pressure was going to affect the Blue Devils early, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski seemingly willed them back into the game with timely lineup changes and reliance on his more experienced players, Wendell Moore and Jeremy Roach. The two combined for 15 points on the half.

Player of the half: Wendell Moore Jr.

After leaving the game with the injury, it seemed like Duke was falling into a hole from which it could not recover. His return instantly sparked the offense to finally retake the lead with 8:12 on the clock, but then the Blue Devils couldn’t hold on to the momentum. He made a key 3-pointer to make it a 21-20 game—and again to tie it at 25—and has looked like the leader the Blue Devils need, though the team overall has looked a bit out of sorts. The junior—who tallied a +12 plus-minus—was on the court for almost the entire half when he was back to full health, and hounded the Camels on defense, helping Duke ultimately slow down the 3-point threat and keep the game close.


Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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