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5 observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Xavier at Phil Knight Legacy

Junior guard Jeremy Roach came alive late in the first half Friday afternoon for the Blue Devils.
Junior guard Jeremy Roach came alive late in the first half Friday afternoon for the Blue Devils.

PORTLAND, Ore.—No. 8 Duke took an early lead in its Phil Knight Legacy semifinal in Portland, Ore., with Xavier keeping things close before the break. After one half at the Moda Center, the Blue Devils lead the Musketeers 40-34.

The duality of Filipowski

On Duke’s first possession, freshman big man Kyle Filipowski received the ball at the left wing and tried to iso, but quickly lost control of the ball, nearly causing a turnover. The next time down the court, he caught the ball at the same spot, but went right up and sunk a contested three. He got the ball at the same spot two more times in a row, driving for a layup the first time and hitting a stepback midrange pull-up the second. It’s clear right now that, while Filipowski still is not a shot-creator, he continues to grow as a talented scorer off the catch.

Whitehead creation

A good Duke team always features a great shot-creator at the wing: Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, RJ Barrett, Matthew Hurt, Wendell Moore Jr. For the first few games of this season, it looked as if this year’s Blue Devils were lacking such a player in their rotation.

Enter Dariq Whitehead. Despite a fairly short first-half stint, the freshman wing nailed two long, contested pull-up jumpers in the first half, giving Duke an easy five points when its offense was getting bogged down. As he continues to warm up to competitive games after his preseason foot injury, he’s providing a much-needed spark plug for this offense.

Them’s the Blakes

It is probably safe to say that most people did not expect Jaylen Blakes to consistently be an X-factor for the Blue Devils this season. But the second-year guard is doing a little of everything to help Duke, from killing multiple Xavier possessions with deflections to attacking off the catch and forcing the Musketeer defense into rotation.

Lively at the rim

It has been an up-and-down introduction to the starting lineup for freshman Dereck Lively II, but the impact he makes on the rim both offensively and defensively is as important as anything the Blue Devils have. The center collected three rebounds and two blocks in his nine first-half minutes and caused headache after headache for driving Musketeers. The combination of gravity he exerts from the offensive dunker’s spot and rim protection are crucial to Duke’s success.

Player of the half: Jeremy Roach

Filipowski was the starter for the Blue Devil engine, but Jeremy Roach was the fuel that kept it going through the first half. When Duke was trailing by four points, its largest deficit of the half, he came alive: Roach accounted for 15 points with 10 points himself and two assists from that point through the halftime buzzer, culminating in an assist on a Mark Mitchell dunk that put the Blue Devils up by eight.

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