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 Mark Mitchell's dominant debut and the Blue Devils 71-44 victory against Jacksonville:
One player: Mark Mitchell
In Duke's rout of Jacksonville, forward Mark Mitchell made it clear why he is one of the nation’s most talented freshmen. He was electric. In his first college game, Mitchell led the Blue Devils in scoring with 18 points and was active all over the floor. He set the tone for his debut in the opening minute, flying above the rim and throwing down an alley-oop assisted by fellow freshman Tyrese Proctor.
Throughout the first half, Mitchell and star junior guard Jeremy Roach were a one-two punch on the offensive end, providing much-needed energy and athleticism for the Duke squad. The Kansas City, Kan., native wasn’t afraid to put his head down and drive to the basket, which in turn opened up 3-point opportunities. A player who tends to thrive in the paint, Mitchell cashed in twice from beyond the arc. He also recorded two assists, one steal and one block to add to his big day. If this is how Mitchell played in his first game, the Blue Devil faithful should look forward to seeing how he develops.
One word: Promising
If Duke’s opening night performance is any indication of the season to come, Blue Devil fans should be excited. Veterans and freshmen alike displayed unrelenting intensity throughout the contest. Duke’s defense was compact and left Jacksonville with few open shots, which culminated in a strong defensive display. In the first nine minutes of the second half, the Blue Devils allowed just six points, demonstrating that youth doesn’t necessarily compromise physicality.
The performance also invalidated skepticism regarding team chemistry. From the moment Proctor connected with a soaring Mitchell to score Duke's first points, it was clear that, for the most part, the team was on the same page. The Blue Devils' 12 turnovers hurt their momentum, but they were overshadowed by the sweet ball movement and free-flowing offense. Team captain Roach showed off his leadership by calling plays and maintaining constant communication with head coach Jon Scheyer.
Mitchell’s big night shielded the on-court struggles by highly touted freshmen Kyle Filipowski and Proctor, who combined for five turnovers and shot a collective 4-of-16 from the field. Still, Filipowski ended up with a double-double and Proctor exhibited composure handling the ball. Once Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead return from injury, Duke should be ready to face any team in the nation.
One stat: Jacksonville 13% from 3-point range
Duke’s strong perimeter defense shut down the Dolphins avenues to claw back into this game. Jacksonville shot just 3-of-23 from beyond the arc, which was in part due to the Blue Devils’ defensive aggression. The Duke guards fought through high screens and shut down passing lanes while the wings closed down any space in the corners. Throughout the game, Jacksonville continuously struggled to find open shots and ended up attempting contested threes with the seconds ticking down on the shot clock. Duke’s length proved to be a problem for Jacksonville and will likely do so for its opponents down the line.
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