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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Jacksonville

Freshman forward Mark Mitchell impressed in his debut with strong defense and a formidable paint presence.
Freshman forward Mark Mitchell impressed in his debut with strong defense and a formidable paint presence.

In its first game under new head coach Jon Scheyer, No. 7 Duke established a 42-26 lead against a resilient Jacksonville by the halftime whistle. With another period to play, here are five of our observations:

New era

It is easy to forget given the recency of Countdown to Craziness and last week’s exhibition game that tonight is actually the first game of the Scheyer era of Duke basketball. With that came an inaugural starting lineup that mirrored that of last Wednesday, including junior captain Jeremy Roach and freshman Tyrese Proctor at the guard position, freshmen Mark Mitchell and Kyle Filipowski at forward and Northwestern graduate transfer Ryan Young at center. In the absence of projected lottery picks Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead due to nagging injuries, Scheyer was forced to shift the rotation, but the lineup marks one of many milestones for the youngest head coach of any Power Five institution.

Defensive tenacity

Scheyer stated throughout the preseason that he wants his team to be solid as a rock on the defensive end, and throughout the half it was exactly that. Proctor and Roach’s aggressive defense from outside kept Jacksonville at bay, while the likes of Filipowski and Young barricaded the defensive glass with a number of important rebounds. It wasn’t a perfect performance—Duke got out-muscled for a few put-backs and struggled to contain the Dolphins from midrange—but from a tenacity standpoint, it was exactly what Scheyer was looking for.

Unselfish play

Despite the early show from Mitchell and Roach, Duke provided a clue of its offensive scheme across the board. With the additions of Jacob Grandison and Jaylen Blakes midway through the half, the Blue Devils placed an emphasis on unselfish play and finding the right pass. They excelled at it. One play saw the ball change hands numerous times around the perimeter before Grandison teed up a wide-open Blakes for a confident attempt from the top of the arc—a trend that continued throughout the period with various players.

Class from the captain

Alongside Mitchell, the Blue Devils’ lone captain impressed with his playmaking and shot-creating ability in the opening 20 minutes. The point guard scored 16 points and dished out two assists by the close of the half, including a few clutch 3-pointers after defensive stops. The only returning starter on this roster, Roach’s ability to slow the game down and find an open lane was invaluable against the Dolphins’ tenacious defensive efforts.

Player of the half: Mark Mitchell

Just like he did at Countdown, Mitchell opened his team’s scoring with a thunderous alley-oop dunk from a Proctor lob, accompanied by the same enthusiasm from the student section. The Kansas City, Kan., native helped set the tone early for the Blue Devils, grabbing his own rebound for an and-one and sending a critical steal-turned-assist to Roach for a triple. He was a source of much-needed energy and athleticism against a Jacksonville team that caused some early problems with impressive play from its guards.


Andrew Long | Blue Zone editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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