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5 observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Boston College

Dereck Lively II was active on both ends of the floor for Duke in the first half.
Dereck Lively II was active on both ends of the floor for Duke in the first half.

Duke tipped off its conference slate Saturday afternoon against Boston College, featuring a first half in which the home team eventually pulled away. After 20 minutes in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils lead the Eagles 35-23.

Get him to the paint

It was a fight under both baskets to open the game, with both teams trying to capitalize from inside. Eighteen of the first 21 points of the game were either scored on layups or dunks, with Duke getting on the board multiple times from three big slams by Dereck Lively II that all earned loud responses from the Cameron Crazies. After a stellar last game against Ohio State, graduate center Ryan Young entered the game, and Duke’s offense was quick to focus on feeding him inside, where he notched two early layups and added two points from the charity stripe after being fouled.

Part of the reason for the high percentage of paint points was both teams struggling from far out; Duke missed its first three 3-point attempts and an early jumper, and it did not log its first trey until 13 minutes into the game with a big finish by Jacob Grandison. Duke went 3-for-10 from behind the arc in the first half, with two coming from Grandison and the other from junior captain Jeremy Roach.

Nothing wrong with being confident

The Blue Devil faithful have seen in early games a Duke team that at times looks unsure, with the team mainly struggling to find its offensive identity and overcome the natural imperfection of freshmen who have not been on the college basketball stage for long. Against Boston College, though, Duke appeared more collected than it has in recent appearances, even as they only led by two halfway through the opening 20.

Part of its early confidence was perhaps connected to its improved offensive direction, with Lively and Young’s early success assuring Duke that all it needed to do was find them in the paint and let them go to work. After a steal by Jaylen Blakes that finished with a fastbreak layup from Tyrese Proctor, the Blue Devils celebrated as they gathered at the bench for a timeout called—and it was clear this team knows what it can do.

Don’t throw away your shot

Aggressive man defense from both teams led to long offensive possessions, with both teams attempting buzzer-beaters to avoid shot-clock violations in the early minutes. There were very few fast-break attempts from either team, with both teams opting to set up and pass the ball around the key before letting the likes of Lively, Young and Kyle Filipowski go to work inside.

Teams found mixed success late in the shot clock. Chas Kelley III silenced the crowd with a swished three with a second to go about six minutes into the game, but a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer from the Eagles’ Mason Madsen moments later earned an “air ball” chant from the Crazies.

Relaxed on defense

One would expect that a game won or lost right under the basket would send plenty of players to the charity stripe, but Duke’s defense did not let Boston College get ahead at the line. The Eagles shot only one free throw and went 7-for-22 from the field in the first 15 minutes, indicative of how Duke’s defense forced them into sloppy shots and contested jumpers. 

Player of the half: Dereck Lively II

Lively won the tip to start off the first 20 minutes, and his opening minutes only went up from there. On top of three highlight-reel dunks, Lively also logged two early blocks on layup attempts. He spent some time on the bench while Young got some minutes to go to work, but the early momentum boost he provided Duke and its fans set the tone for an energetic first half in Cameron Indoor.

Lively is still returning from a preseason injury, and with limited time to practice in between the Thanksgiving holiday and Phil Knight Legacy tournament, it may be another few games before head coach Jon Scheyer is able to figure out the best way to consistently fit him into the lineup. But as with Dariq Whitehead’s performance against Oregon State, the Crazies are liking what they see, and the energy and confidence of this team will only continue to increase as Lively’s role become more consistent.


Leah Boyd

Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.

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