After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone breaks down Wendell Moore Jr.'s historic performance and the rest of Duke's win against Army:
One player: Wendell Moore Jr.
From the opening tip of Friday night’s matchup against Army, Wendell Moore Jr. made his imprint on the game. The junior forward recorded the fifth triple-double in school history with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on efficient 7-of-13 shooting from the field. At the beginning of this season, there was plenty of noise surrounding the impending leap that Moore was supposed to make, especially considering his emergence as a team captain. Duke freshmen Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels stole the show in the team's first game at Madison Square Garden, but against Army, Moore's pivotal role was on full display.
The Charlotte native truly did it all against the Black Knights, both on the offensive and defensive end. Moore delivered on strong drives to the basket, connected on timely three-pointers and was consistently able to ignite the fast break with his stifling on-ball defense. He was effective in scoring the ball at all three levels, which does not even account for the impact he had on the other side of the court. Moore's defense was outstanding, and it would not be an overstatement to say that he has the potential to be one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball.
Another reason that Moore was a key player in this game was because of his playmaking abilities. Considering his presence as a ball-handler and the fact that he played more minutes than any other Blue Devil, Moore's most impressive statistic Friday night may have been his ten assists with only one turnover. As Banchero mentioned after the game, if Moore continues to play at this level, Duke is going to be a difficult team to overcome.
One word: Balance
Perhaps the most encouraging outcome from Friday's game was Duke’s well-rounded production, as four starters scored in double figures and Joey Baker added eight points off the bench. Moore had his triple-double, Banchero scored 18 points on an incredibly efficient 7-of-9 shooting night and Jeremy Roach was the third-leading scorer with 14 points of his own. Though Keels' performance paled in comparison to his opening night explosion, the freshman guard still contributed with 10 points and strong perimeter defense.
Roach was a surprise star in the second half of the game, looking confident on the offensive end. He buried back-to-back threes, had a breakaway dunk off of a steal and hit all four of his free throws before exiting the game. Another point of encouragement for the Blue Devils was seeing Baker connect from distance twice in the second half. The senior's role on the team largely consists of leadership and perimeter shooting, so it will be important that he continues to shoot efficiently and spread the defense. Duke fans also witnessed the potential and athleticism of AJ Griffin during a tough finish at the rim, along with the smooth stroke of Bates Jones, who could see his role expand over time. Overall, the balanced production was an important takeaway that can hopefully become a consistent theme throughout the year.
One stat: Six steals for Trevor Keels
After Keels buried a three-pointer for the Blue Devils’ first points of the game, fans may have expected the freshman phenom to put on another scoring clinic. But for the remainder of the game, Keels struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm, missing the remainder of his three-point attempts and shooting 4-of-14 from the field overall. Though he still scored 10 points, it is fair to say that Keels had an off night on the offensive end. Despite this, his tenacious performance on the defensive end—which featured six steals—was the type of play that captures the attention of NBA scouts.
Keels' hands are quick, his pressure is suffocating, he moves laterally with ease and he clearly has the strength to compete with most players. The immense amount of apparent effort that Keels puts into his on-ball defense is obvious to the spectator, and his intelligence as a defender was also on display against Army, as he was not called for a single foul. Duke fans should continue to expect elite defense from Keels, even as his future offensive performances improve.
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