Duke men’s basketball opens its home slate with its Veterans Day Weekend Showcase, the first game of which is against Army. Getting off to a fast start, the Blue Devils are up 38-25 at the half.
Yes, yes, there’s been Countdown to Craziness and the Blue Devils’ exhibition matchup with Winston-Salem State. But for the first time in a year and a half, there is a meaningful men’s basketball game being played in front of fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The atmosphere can only be described as electric. Cheering for big plays, bowing down for Coach K and singing along to “Everytime We Touch,” the Crazies are back in full force. And, as Coach K rang in his final home opener, Cameron reverberated with a fanbase hungrier than ever for Duke men’s basketball.
Improvement from beyond the arc
The first points of the night were back-to-back 3-pointers from freshmen Trevor Keels and Banchero. After shooting a dreadful 1-of-13 from beyond the arc against Kentucky Tuesday, those opening threes were an encouraging sign that tonight might be different. However, it took a while for another one to trickle in, and the Blue Devils finished 5-of-16 from three. While a significant improvement over Tuesday, Duke isn’t looking to be a dominant shooting team thus far. However, that’s not necessarily a problem. The Blue Devils were dominant on the interior, scoring 18 of their points inside the paint. If they can keep that up, 3-point shooting may not end up that much of a problem.
Defense getting into shape
Duke went up 10-0 in the first three minutes, but a 9-0 run from Army put the game back within one, as the Blue Devils’ looked a little sloppy in their half of the court. Something clicked into place for Duke though, as it looked more in-sync and stronger through the rest of the half, racking up 16 defensive rebounds and eight steals. Defense has been hailed as one of the strengths of this team, and pestering Army the rest of the half after giving up that 9-0 run is a sign of good things for this Duke team.
Battle on the glass
Surprisingly, the Blue Devils got beat on the glass against Kentucky despite having a sizable size advantage. Against Army, though, it was a different story, as Duke entered the locker room with 20 total rebounds to Army’s 18. Especially defensively, the Blue Devils were much sharper on the glass, particularly as big men Mark Williams and Theo John began to come into their own. Offensive rebounding can still be improved, as Army was often able to rob Duke of a second-chance opportunity, but as a whole, the battle at the rim was an improvement over Tuesday.
Player of the half: Paolo Banchero, the Birthday Boy
As the teams warmed up, a jovial chorus arose, wishing star freshman forward Paolo Banchero a happy birthday. The Seattle, Wash., native turns 19 Friday, and fittingly, he turned in an exemplary performance in the first half, perhaps as a birthday gift to himself. With 10 points, 6 rebounds and one assist, Banchero looked every bit the future superstar he’s been billed as this season. One particularly dominant play saw Banchero jump up for the rebound, muscle his way in for the layup and drain the and-one. But that wasn’t it. Banchero slammed in a dunk that jazzed up the crowd, grabbed the most rebounds in his own end and was a near perfect 4-of-5 from the field. While there’s still areas he, and the whole team, need to improve on, his performance so far on his birthday was a great one.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.