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 Trevor Keels' performance and the team's paint presence in Saturday's 87-56 win against Elon:
One player: Trevor Keels
After taking the nation by storm in the Champions Classic against Kentucky, Trevor Keels has not been the same offensive force that he teased in New York City. Saturday afternoon, however, the strong guard was able to push his way into some good-looking buckets, totaling 19 points to lead all scorers. “Keel Mode," as the freshman guard is often known, shot 8-of-13 from the field and a perfect 2-of-2 from the free throw line. He also provided the team with some impressive on-ball defense, coming away with three steals in the game.
Known to be an outside threat, Keels shot just 1-of-4 from distance in Saturday's win. On the season, he is shooting just 31.2% from long-range. It is exciting to know that he is still finding his form, however, because the player Keels has been so far has still been fantastic. As the Blue Devils enter their ACC schedule, look for Keels to continue to round into shooting form. After bursting onto the scene early, he'll need some more impressive performances to maintain the hype he has built.
One word: Paint
Saturday afternoon's game represented total paint domination for the Blue Devils. Facing off against a guard-heavy lineup, this game was set up for star forward Paolo Banchero and center Mark Williams to take over with size. Duke's players drove into the paint with ease, scoring in big numbers and snatching down rebounds. In the first half alone, the Blue Devils scored 30 points in the paint, enough to give them the lead against Elon’s 26 total points. By the end of the game, the Blue Devils led 39-31 in rebounding margin, including 14 offensive boards.
The second half maintained the same tone as the first. Duke was able to get the rim consistently throughout the game, often resulting in an easy bucket or a foul. Because of the force the Blue Devils put in down low, the team reached 25 free throw attempts for the first time since November's big win against Gonzaga.
A big topic of intrigue has been the consistency of Mark Williams, who has had some dominant games and some in which he has left something to be desired. In order to see the Blue Devils uphold their high standard of play throughout the conference schedule, Williams will have to continue to find his stride and put together long stretches of domination in the paint.
One stat: Eight turnovers
It should be no surprise that Duke, which entered Saturday's matchup favored by 27.5 points, wrapped up its nonconference schedule with another impressive win. However, it is certainly a positive that the Blue Devils finished the game with just eight turnovers. Cleaning up passing has translated into more effective possessions, allowing the Blue Devils to be much more efficient when they have the ball.
Turnovers have not been a major point of concern thus far, but it is always something to watch. This season, the team is averaging just 9.2 turnovers per game. The team has only averaged below 10 turnovers per game twice since the 2002-03 season. Maintaining this level of clean basketball bodes well for a team that has championship aspirations in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final season. Especially in a down year for the rest of the ACC, there is no reason that the Blue Devils cannot continue to make possessions count into the second half of the season. Keeping turnovers down is crucial to success, and the impressive numbers so far this season show that the rest of the team believes in that notion.
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