Defense, big men excel as Duke men's basketball coasts past Boston College in ACC opener

Kyle Filipowski drives to the hoop during the first half of Duke's win against Boston College at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Kyle Filipowski drives to the hoop during the first half of Duke's win against Boston College at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke took the court in Cameron Indoor Stadium for head coach Jon Scheyer’s first ACC matchup, and it left with a resounding victory and a 1-0 ACC record.

Against Boston College Saturday afternoon, the Blue Devil defense was back on display en route to a strong 75-59 win. In a game in which Scheyer was able to flex his team’s size over a smaller opponent, the big men did not disappoint.

"[I'm] really proud of our team. Great to get our first ACC win," Scheyer said. "Our defense was really good. Finally, when we could string some stops together, that translated into some good offense for us."

Duke (8-2, 1-0 in the ACC) essentially dominated the competition in nearly every major statistical category. Across the board, the 17th-ranked Blue Devils out-shot the Eagles 52.8%-36.5% from the field (38.1%-22.7% from beyond the arc) and out-assisted the Eagles 19-7 while also beating them in blocks 7-2. 

On the individual scoring front, it was a very similar story to that win over the Buckeyes just four days ago—a complete team effort. There was no one player that Duke went to for its offensive production. Instead, five Blue Devils reached at least eight points, led by freshman forward Mark Mitchell with 15 points. 

"It's great," Scheyer said on the wide scoring distribution. "And it's one of the things we've talked about, it can come in waves. Our first group started out, [I] thought we were okay and then [I] thought when we subbed, we got some more energy and then that makes the [first] guys, when they're coming back in, they have more energy."

Kyle Filipowski picked up his fifth double-double of the year and Dereck Lively II also made his mark on the game with eight points, two rebounds and three blocks. Notably missing from the box score, however, was Dariq Whitehead, the third member of Duke’s top-10 recruiting trio. Whitehead appeared to be poised to play significant minutes after entering 3:45 into the game, but picked up two early fouls that held him out for most of the opening period. It took until the 12:02 mark in the second half for Whitehead to get on the scoreboard, and he totaled 16 minutes in all—a number Scheyer is surely looking to increase soon. 

"We need to continue to play to our strengths. We need to continue to figure out who is the hot hand that day and play through them," Scheyer said. "So we'll have to continue to grow with that, for sure."

Although Duke struggled to extend its lead to a blowout for much of the game, the team was able to keep Boston College (5-4, 0-1) at an arm’s length the entire second period. Duke maintained a lead of at least 10 points for the entire 20 minutes, in large part due to that stellar defense that the Blue Devils displayed all game. With just more than three minutes remaining, the lead was up to 21. 

The freshmen were the main contributors on offense, but the veteran trio of Jeremy Roach, Ryan Young and Jacob Grandison played significant roles in setting the team right. Roach was a steady hand at the lead guard spot, Young deployed his fundamental footwork early on and Grandison provided some much-needed 3-pointers.

"They're always ready for us. Always ready. Any given moment, any responsibility..." Scheyer said on his veterans. "It's their toughness. It's the winning plays. They've learned their experience in their college careers what it means to win."

It was a slow start for Duke overall on the offensive end, something that has been normal for the team this season. It took the Blue Devils four possessions to get their first bucket, and it was not until the 12:58 mark that they took their first lead. 

An encouraging sign for Duke, however, was the early involvement of Lively, whose season as a whole has gotten off to a slow start. The freshman helped break the Blue Devils’ scoreless streak with two big dunks and added two blocks on the defensive end within the first 4:35 minutes. 

Despite the offensive struggles, the Blue Devil defense significantly stood out in the first 20 minutes of play. The team amassed six blocks before halftime and forced its opponents to shoot just 27.3% from the field.

Once the Blue Devils were able to take the lead, they did not surrender it for the rest of the game. And after entering the break up 35-23, that was, as they say, all she wrote.

Duke will be back in action Tuesday against Iowa for the Jimmy V Classic in New York, where it will look to continue its winning streak heading into ACC play.


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