After another prolonged break for the holiday season, Duke took control before the break in its return to action Saturday against Florida State. At halftime in this last contest of 2022, the Blue Devils lead 42-25.
A new starter
After a career-best game against Wake Forest, head coach Jon Scheyer elected to insert sophomore guard Jaylen Blakes into the starting lineup for Saturday’s contest. This is Blakes’ first career start, replacing freshman guard Tyrese Proctor.
Blakes instantly proved that he may have a case to be a starter more often, scoring Duke’s first five points of the game. As usual, Blakes also provided his impeccable perimeter defense and high motor, something Scheyer has praised him for throughout the season.
Return of the freshmen
After missing Duke’s loss to Wake Forest due to a non-COVID related illness, star freshmen Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead rejoined the team Saturday. The Blue Devils certainly missed the highly touted center and wing, who were pegged to finish as the top two vote-getters for ACC Rookie of the Year in the preseason.
In the first half of Saturday’s game, both players made a visible impact on both ends of the floor. Lively, who has been an anchor for the Duke defense, showcased his skillset once again, coming up with a highlight block to help energize a slow start. Whitehead, who continues to get healthier, displayed his ability to drive and score, putting up eight points. He also utilized his length on defense, coming up with a steal in the final minutes of the half.
Entering the under-12 media timeout, Duke led Florida State 14-11. However, only two Blue Devils combined for these 14 points: graduate center Ryan Young and Blakes. After Young was subbed in off the bench, he scored six consecutive points to follow the first five put up by Blakes. Blakes instantly followed up Young with a 3-pointer when he checked back into the game. Blakes ended the first half with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and Young with 12.
Duke entered Saturday’s contest among the best in the country defensively, and they continued to show this prowess in the first half. The Blue Devils allow 60.4 points per game, and Florida State is not on pace to reach this mark at the break. The Seminoles were held to 36% shooting from the field and 30% from three, numbers they will need to improve drastically to keep pace with Duke in the second half. Among these statistical struggles, Florida State has put up several air balls at the end of the shot clock, giving life to the home crowd and confidence to the Blue Devil defense.
Player of the half: Ryan Young
When Duke was lacking a presence inside early Saturday, Scheyer employed his usual strategy of turning to the Northwestern transfer off the bench. Young delivered early on, putting up game-highs of 12 points and six rebounds, with three of those coming on the offensive glass. With freshman big men Kyle Filipowski and Lively struggling to get it going early on, Scheyer may continue to rely on Young to get buckets inside.
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