NEW YORK—It was past 10 p.m. by the time the Blue Devils took the court against Iowa at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. The late tip was no matter, as Duke looked as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever en route to a 74-62 win.
While the whole team contributed to No. 15 Duke’s statement victory, team captain Jeremy Roach was the X-factor, putting on one of the best showings of his career to give the Blue Devils their most commanding big-stage win of the season.
"That was a big-time game, and Jeremy just really was in control of our team from beginning to end—scoring, playmaking, leading," head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game.
Through the beginning of the first half, Duke and Iowa were in a deadlock, though it was more of a staredown than a shootout. The first few minutes dragged after Roach danced around the midrange to lay in the game’s first basket. Finally, freshman guard Tyrese Proctor broke through just after the 16-minute mark, working inside for a jumper that gave Duke (9-2) a lead it would not give up for the rest of the game. A quick defensive stop later, and Roach knocked down a three followed up quickly by another downhill two from Proctor. Just like that, the Blue Devils, up 11-5, had the game’s first generous lead.
"I think our offense will just continue to develop through the course of the season, ... but the defense is the base of who we are," Scheyer said. "... The two things I always connect to Duke basketball: playing defense and sharing the ball. And we'll continue to emphasize that, but just proud of the effort."
The trend would hold through the rest of the game. While the Hawkeyes (6-2) were able to play catch up in the first, Duke always had a small run ready to go to stay in control. Tied at 11-11, Jacob Grandison broke through with a pull-up three from the top of the key, and Dariq Whitehead doubled the lead with a corner three of his own. Later on, freshman big Kyle Filipowski sunk a pull-up followed by a Roach three, then a Ryan Young hook shot capped off a Mark Mitchell solo effort.
Roach stood above the rest, going 3-of-4 from deep in the first half, helping him to a career-high-tying 22 points by the final buzzer. He showed off his finesse and delicate touch, dribbling around Iowa defenders with ease, and catalyzed some of the game’s biggest plays, like freshman center Dereck Lively II’s first-half alley-oop slam.
"I knew I was in the rhythm when I hit my first three," Roach said. "When you see your first couple shots go in, you know you're in the rhythm. ... I didn't wanna be ultra aggressive, still wanted to get my teammates involved, and then be smart on offense and lead."
He also led the way for a game that was all about the three ball. While Roach himself cooled down from beyond the arc in the second half, the rest of the squad rained it in to fill in the gaps. The Blue Devils finished 7-of-20 from three, which helped them pad their lead in spite of a zealous Iowa interior defense. This was made easier by the fact that the Hawkeyes could not buy a triple. Going 19% from three, Iowa had to rely on paint scoring to stay in the game, but the likes of Filipowski, Lively and Young were more than prepared.
"[Young] has been well coached, and he's played college basketball for now, five years. He knows everything he's supposed to do," Scheyer said. "And Dereck, just his length. Forget about the blocks, just his presence down there, he really impacts a lot."
Young, quiet on the scoring front with two points, had an outsized impact on the game with starting center Lively in early foul trouble. The graduate transfer played 25 minutes, pulling down a team-leading 11 rebounds and blocking three shots. Head coach Jon Scheyer has shown a propensity for pulling from Duke’s deep bench early. Young first took the court just more than five minutes into the game as part of a series of substitutions that left Roach as the only starter remaining on the court. Whitehead, who also came off the bench, notched a career-high eight points, while Grandison enlivened the defense in key moments.
"Coach [Scheyer] says he wants us to transform, and I think they're doing just that," Roach said of the team. "As you see, we have so many different talented guys who could step up."
The victory improved Duke’s record at the Jimmy V Classic to 4-0 while also marking their 40th win at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Next, the Blue Devils will welcome Maryland Eastern Shore to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday. The game will start a string of matchups that Duke should have no problem handling, making the victory against the Hawkeyes all the more sweet.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.