Duke hosted Appalachian State for its second contest in its five-game homestand, and this one started out close. Despite the Blue Devils entering this game as heavy favorites, the Mountaineers held their own thanks to an efficient mark from the field and competing on the boards to keep the score 50-37 in Duke’s favor. Here’s five of our takeaways from the first 20 minutes.
The Mountaineers came prepared
Appalachian State came to Cameron Indoor Stadium ready to play. The lead changed multiple times in the first half, and Duke struggled to pull away. Appalachian State guard Michael Almonacy’s dominant performance was a key reason the contents remained close, as he notched 17 points on a 54% clip from the floor.
The Blue Devils finally began to put distance between them and the Mountaineers toward the end of the half. A Wendell Moore dunk extended Duke’s lead to eight heading into the final media timeout, and once play resumed Paolo Banchero drained a triple to put Duke up 11.
Battle of the boards
Appalachian State came into Thursday’s matchup nearly matching Duke in rebounds, and they kept up the trend in the first half. The Mountaineers had 18 boards to the Blue Devils’ 17 and grabbed seven offensive rebounds in comparison to Duke’s four. Winning the battle on the glass was a key reason Appalachian State hung with Duke during the first half, and it’s something the Blue Devils will need to fix coming out of halftime.
Trevor Keels continues resurgence
Trevor Keels continued the resurgence that began Tuesday against South Carolina State. He notched nine points on a 3-of-5 mark from the floor, including two triples. Although he made only one of his two free-throw attempts, Keels was a key reason the Blue Devils stayed ahead of the Mountaineers, also contributing a steal to go along with his offensive production.
Theo John makes a brief return
Graduate student center Theo John missed Duke’s rout of South Carolina State due to a back injury. He checked into Thursday night’s game with 9:21 to play in the first half, but he left with 4:45 remaining and didn’t return.
So far this season, John has averaged 3.8 points per contest with 3.3 rebounds. If he returns and plays like his usual self in the second half, he could help the Blue Devils compete on the glass.
Player of the half: Michael Almonacy
Michael Almonacy clearly hasn’t been intimidated by the Cameron Crazies. The senior guard notched 17 points in the first half on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor. It’s a breakout game for him, as so far he has averaged 9.3 points per contest on 34.9% shooting. Although he has been quiet on the glass, Almonacy’s performance has allowed the Mountaineers to keep it close on their trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Matthew Griffin was editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 116th volume.