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 impressive first start and the rest of the Blue Devils' 76-64 win against Wake Forest:
One player: AJ Griffin
It’s obvious that AJ Griffin has finally found the mojo that made him a five-star prospect coming out of high school. The freshman has been a creative playmaker, a sharpshooter and a quick, formidable opponent in the paint for the Blue Devils this season. Griffin clearly played in this manner against Wake Forest, totaling a career-high 22 points and 4 rebounds. Without a doubt, Duke’s coaching staff has observed the New York native’s development; Griffin was in the starting lineup for the first time Wednesday night and racked up a career-high 36 minutes on the court.
Griffin is another star in the making, and it is clear that he is a superb scoring option for Duke. This will be especially helpful in future games in which other Blue Devils may struggle. If the freshman is able to continuously play at this level, few opponents will be able to take down the Blue Devils.
One word: Recuperating
A major headline for head coach Mike Krzyzewski's squad is the fact that it had nearly two weeks off due to COVID-19 issues within the program. Duke's rust from this sabbatical showed in its tough loss to Miami, as the Blue Devils struggled with turnovers and stagnancy throughout the night. The Blue Devils definitely had a slow start against Wake Forest, scoring just 17 points through the first fifteen minutes. However, with the help of Griffin and Paolo Banchero, Duke started to look like itself again in the second half.
Krzyzewski's squad once again displayed impressive ball movement, quickness and physicality on both sides of the court in its 76-64 win against the Demon Deacons. With a little luck, the Blue Devils can take the momentum from their second-half performance into their home matchup Saturday against N.C. State.
One stat: 54% team free-throw shooting
One component of Duke's post-break offensive struggle has been at the free-throw line. The Blue Devils were 7-of-13 from the line against Wake Forest and shot 26-of-40 against Georgia Tech the week before. Duke is relatively good at the foul line as its team free-throw percentage is 74.7%, which is ranked 64th in the country. Krzyzewski's squad should return to this level of free-throw shooting as the rust continues to wear off, but the Blue Devils need to make this a priority as executing at the line will be vital in the tough ACC matchups to come.
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