Trevor Keels may not have been the most efficient shooter in Duke’s 88-73 win against N.C. State, but he contributed in plenty of ways.
Keels stepped into the first 3-pointer of the game at the 13:16 mark of the first half to help overturn a slow Duke start and tie the game at 15-15. The shot drew an electric reaction throughout Cameron Indoor Stadium, energizing both the fans as well as his teammates who were able to break away from the strong N.C. state offense that was dominating the early minutes of the first half. Keels had 12 points, five steals and a season-high of nine of the team’s 23 assists, making him one of the more well-rounded players from this game.
“I feel like I played a good all-around game,” Keels said. “I feel like I set the tone physically getting those five steals. Offensively, just reading what they were doing. Mark [Williams] had the hot hand and I was just trying to find him.”
Sophomore Mark Williams and Keels were able to maintain a connection on the floor all game. Of Keels’ nine assists, three of them were to Williams. Keels commented on Williams’ performance in the game, and how effective it was for Keels to have Williams behind him on drives to back him up on offense if needed.
“[Keels] was finding me a lot of good spots on the floor that I was able to convert,” said Williams.
Although, there were still some errors in Keels’ passes to Williams. At one point, Keels made a pass that went a little long which Williams caught under the basket. The catch caused Williams to head out of bounds, but he was able to keep the play going with a smooth bounce pass to freshman Paolo Banchero for the drunk.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that this was Keels’ best performance of the season and discussed the freshman’s role on the team.
“With the starting lineup we have, he ends up being a point guard at times, which with the other group, he was kind of never that unless we just wanted to put him in a ball screen,” said Krzyzewski. “He’s a very smart player, and he's strong with the ball. He can get in certain positions and make passes because of that strength. And he's had a really good week of practice. I think he's getting sharp. And he had a terrific game for us.”
Krzyzewski also discussed how Keels’ ability to step up has been able to take off some of the weight from Wendell Moore Jr. so that he’s not playing as tired.
This is an important quality for the freshman to have, and will be especially important when going into the postseason as depth will be crucial in those fast, high-stakes games. Keels has already proved he’s capable of rising to the occasion, doing so in the Duke-Kentucky game early on this season when four players left the court due to cramps.
Keels had a low 18% field goal percentage against Miami, but he improved efficiency all week, shooting 56% against Wake Forest and 39% against N.C. State. If Duke wants to reach its potential as a team, Keels will have to continue developing his shooting so they can have more games like the one against N.C. State.
What was the reason for this improvement in Keels’ play Saturday?
He attributes Saturday’s performance to Williams, as well as the energy radiating off of the student section.
“The Cameron Crazies for sure get me going," said Keels."I always feed off their energy."
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