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 AJ Griffin’s big night and a big win for the Blue Devils against South Carolina State after a two-week break:
One player: AJ Griffin
Before the Blue Devils took on South Carolina State, AJ Griffin had been rather quiet. The freshman forward has been getting back into his groove after returning from a preseason knee injury. Fortunately, Griffin gave fans another glimpse of his potential against the Bulldogs, racking up 19 points. Griffin shot 7-of-8 from the field with three triples, four assists and four rebounds.
Prior to the matchup against the Bulldogs, the New York native hadn’t made a big effect in the paint, but that turned around Tuesday as the freshman had a couple of smooth trips to the basket. Griffin was even able to play 22 minutes, his most to date.
If Griffin is able to consistently play at this level, Duke's case for the top team in the country only gets stronger. The freshman is now becoming a dangerous option off the bench.
One word: Rested
The last time the Blue Devils suited up was on the road Nov. 30 against Ohio State. That was a tough loss for Duke and Tuesday night's win showed that the team's two-week break since that loss was much needed. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his squad were ready to go against South Carolina State, as the Blue Devils comfortably won, 103-62.
Besides being able to win by a significant margin, the Blue Devils effectively moved the ball around. Duke had 23 assists and six different players had at least 10 points. That is a great turnaround from the Ohio State matchup, in which the Blue Devils often looked stagnant offensively down the stretch.
It’s clear that the break allowed Duke the time to take a step back and lock in its style of basketball. This fast-moving, unselfish approach to the game will be much needed with ACC play coming up at the end of the month.
One stat: 15 3-pointers
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Prior to Tuesday night's matchup, Duke had been just below average from beyond the arc with a season-long 3-point shooting percentage of 32.7%. However, Duke hit 15-of-27 attempts from deep against the Bulldogs—an impressive 55.5% efficiency. The best thing about this feat, though, was that the stellar shooting was shared across the whole team, with eight different Blue Devils hitting a 3-point shot.
If Duke wants to quickly extend its leads, its long-range shooting has to be more consistent, as 3-point shooting has been quite volatile for the Blue Devils this season. Fortunately, Tuesday's win against the Bulldogs makes it look like Krzyzewski's team is headed in the right direction.