Three points: Duke men's basketball still ironing out wrinkles ahead of date with The Citadel

<p>Freshman AJ Griffin provided a spark off the bench that Duke will continue to be looking for as the season rolls on.</p>

Freshman AJ Griffin provided a spark off the bench that Duke will continue to be looking for as the season rolls on.

The Blue Devils have their last game at home before a tough two-game road trip Monday against The Citadel. We have three keys to send Duke to a 6-0 start:

Play smarter, not harder

Although No. 7 Duke turned in a dominant performance against Lafayette on Friday, their play was by no means perfect. The Blue Devils have been plagued by sloppy turnovers throughout the season, averaging 10 per game. While they have only lost the turnover differential once, against Campbell, it is a weakness that can and will be exploited by more competitive opponents. Smarter passes and ball handling will help to eliminate some of those turnovers and elevate Duke’s game.

The turnovers are not Duke’s only weakness. In the first half against Lafayette, Duke shot a measly 14-for-42 from the field. First shots weren’t falling, and second and third chances couldn’t seem to find the net. Countless offensive possessions and defensive stops were squandered when the team failed to capitalize, allowing the Leopards to climb back within five points of the Blue Devils towards the end of the first half. The switch was flipped in the second half however, when the Blue Devils made 22-of-37 on their way to a 33-point victory. This offensive efficiency, if it continues, will allow Duke to power past The Citadel on its way to tougher opponents.

Relief off the bench

The Blue Devils bench combined to score 30 points against Lafayette, led by a breakout 18-point game by forward AJ Griffin. Griffin finally showed the world a glimpse of the dominant player he was the potential to be. The majority of his points came from 3-pointers—he shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. His step-back shots sent the Crazies and teammates into a frenzy. If the freshman can replicate this commanding performance, The Citadel should be scared.

Theo John also was a force off the bench. While he only scored four points, his two scores were memorable. One came off of a steal and fast-break layup that sent the crowd roaring. The second came after a just-missed 3-point shot from Griffin. John grabbed the ball with one hand before it fell back to rim height and slammed it through the net. The forward notched six rebounds, two of which came on the offensive side, to help propel the Blue Devils to their best rebounding game of the season with 50. Another strong performance from John at the rim will help to remedy some of Duke’s woes and help them to a victory Monday.

Paolo’s turn

After scoring at least 18 points in each of the first three games and winning ACC freshman of the week honors, projected lottery pick Paolo Banchero has been relatively quiet. Granted, the large margins of victory against Gardner-Webb and Lafayette meant Banchero wasn’t needed quite as much, but 10- and 11-point performances, respectively, seem to be a letdown after his hot start and pre-season hype. Banchero has given the world a taste of what he can do, but a taste isn’t enough. When he is on his game, he is utterly unstoppable. The Citadel would be unable to stop the 6-foot-10 forward if he is in the zone.

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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