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Duke men's basketball uses team effort to open ACC play with win against Boston College

Ryan Young was a bright spot off the bench for Duke in Saturday's well-rounded win against Boston College.
Ryan Young was a bright spot off the bench for Duke in Saturday's well-rounded win against Boston College.

Duke fans in Cameron Indoor Stadium were sent to their feet many times Saturday afternoon during the Blue Devils' rout of Boston College—for different players and different plays. Sometimes, it was for freshman center Dereck Lively II, who slammed home three big dunks in the first half; other times, graduate guard Jacob Grandison got standing ovations for swishing two threes, and freshman forward Mark Mitchell celebrated after he went on an 8-0 run late in the game with two corner threes and a dunk.

No. 17 Duke’s 75-59 win over Boston College was one of the first true team efforts the Blue Devils have seen in recent games, as they finished with nine players on the board Saturday and all but one contributor put up at least six points.

“You’re not going to have that all the time,” head coach Jon Scheyer said of Duke’s scoring distribution. “But with this group, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens many more times the rest of this year.”

The first half allowed Duke to develop its identity inside, earning 24 of its first 47 points in the paint with several players contributing. While Lively opened with some slams, graduate center Ryan Young soon stepped in and was the core of Duke’s first-half offense. The Blue Devils looked to continue feeding him the ball inside, where he found success with pump fakes and a trip to the line. 

This trend continued in the second half, but the Blue Devils were more comfortable shooting from outside than in the first half. Their increasing confidence throughout the game resulted in some better scoring runs for Duke, with Roach capping off an 11-0 Duke run with a sidestep three at the top of the key.

On top of Young, other members of Duke's bench also found their moments to shine—24 of Duke’s 75 points came from the bench—with Grandison making his mark early. His momentum grew during the first 20 minutes, as the wing earned eight points, including two big treys.

Mitchell ignited the floor in the closing minutes, going on an 8-0 run as the clock wound down, and ultimately leading the Blue Devils with 15 points. Duke showed in its close loss to Kansas that it needs a strong rotation to push through the last five minutes when up against big competition, and Mitchell might have cemented his role as someone who can bring energy and scoring success to that lineup. 

“It can come in waves,” Scheyer said of Duke’s team effort. “Our first group started out, and I thought we were okay, and then I thought that when we [made substitutions], we got some more energy. Then that makes the guys [have more energy] when they’re coming back in.”

Notably, two players from Duke have yet to define clear roles for themselves this season: Lively and Dariq Whitehead, both of whom are coming off of injuries from the preseason. Duke has had more games than practices in recent days, Scheyer noted, which potentially explains why they have not been able to notch significant minutes in games this season, as Scheyer hasn’t been able to find their roles and get them reps with different lineups.

“Scoring, the driving, the attack: That’s going to come naturally for him,” Scheyer said of Whitehead after the game. “He just needs some more game reps, and again, he’s had three practices, so he needs practice time as well. And I really like what he did tonight.”

Ultimately, the reason for the improved scoring distribution and minimal fluster on offense for Duke was that some of Duke’s players finally started to identify their roles and work where they appear most comfortable. Young, in recent contests, has established himself as a big that can go to work in the paint, while Roach and Jaylen Blakes—who finished with three and five assists, respectively—use their court vision to make plays for others rather than focusing on getting themselves on the board.

Freshman center Kyle Filipowski’s main contribution has been his versatility more than an actual role. He spent some minutes playing the five for Duke Saturday, but he has consistently been a presence outside the arc for Duke and has not been relied on inside as much as Young has. He will likely continue to float around as the Blue Devils continue to experiment with lineups—Duke has “to continue to figure out who plays well together,” Scheyer said Saturday—and given that Filipowski logged his fifth double-double Saturday, maybe this adaptable role, though less defined, works well for him.

There are a couple more identities to fill for Duke, including how and when it wants to incorporate press and where it wants to incorporate its recently injured players. But Duke has been shifting away from its early-season pattern of only letting one or two players win games, and if the trend continues, those roles will be locked in within a couple of games.


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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