No Jeremy Roach, no problem—at least Saturday against Maryland Eastern Shore.
Without its junior captain, who missed the contest with a toe injury, No. 15 Duke made quick work of the Hawks in its final nonconference matchup in Cameron Indoor Stadium, heading into final exams with a 82-55 victory.
"Credit to [Maryland Eastern Shore head coach Jason Crafton] and their team with how hard they play," head coach Jon Scheyer said postgame. "Forced us to [have] 18 assists, 19 turnovers, it wasn't the prettiest. But overall, I thought our effort was good, thought different guys stepped up."
Leading 4-2 at the under-16 media timeout, Duke (10-2, 1-0 in the ACC) was off to a sluggish start offensively. But once the bench trio of Jaylen Blakes, Jacob Grandison and Ryan Young checked in, the Blue Devils entered hyperdrive. On consecutive possessions, Young notched a bucket and Blakes hit a wing triple off an assist from Kyle Filipowski—after Blakes himself stole it from Hawks’ guard Ahamadou Fofana—to push it to 11-2.
Blakes thought that run was a reflection of the Blue Devils' depth, saying, "That just speaks that we could just throw a lot of people out there and stay fresh. While other teams are getting tired, we're still just getting going."
From there, the rout was on, as Duke, bolstered by 12 points from Kyle Filipowski and eight offensive boards, entered the locker room leading 39-21.
The second half was more of the same, with some early flair via a fast-break lob from Mark Mitchell to Dariq Whitehead. In his first start, Whitehead was far from passive, putting up 14 shot attempts. While he struggled to get going in the first half, Whitehead picked it up down the stretch much to the delight of the Cameron Indoor crowd, finishing with a season-high 15 points that included a punishing jam off the dribble and a deep triple to make it 73-44. The freshman went to the locker room with an apparent injury during the first half, but returned to the contest before halftime.
"I want him to just get out transition more, attack the basket and I don't think he's shown yet, I think you'll see soon, just what a defender he can be too," Scheyer said on Whitehead's progress.
With Roach out due to a toe injury, how the Blue Devils would fare without their captain was the primary question—particularly with five freshmen (Tyrese Proctor, Whitehead, Mitchell, Filipowski and Dereck Lively II) starting for the first time in program history.
Early on offensively, Duke struggled to establish a mojo, with turnovers by Filipowski and Proctor proof of that. But Lively then picked up the slack, steering the Blue Devils in the right direction in the process.
It started with a putback lay-in off a Mitchell miss, which knotted the score at 2-2. Lively then one-upped himself just a couple of possessions later, slamming home a thunderous jam off of a steal and assist from Proctor.
As for the other end, the Blue Devils were terrific defensively in establishing and building their lead. Help-side rotations were crisp, Blakes, Proctor and Whitehead were active in the passing lanes, Duke’s full-court pressure (when utilized) proved stout and the Hawks (3-7) shot just 39.3% from the field. Plus, guard Kevon Voyles, Maryland Eastern Shore’s scoring leader entering Saturday, was held to a mere four points on 2-of-8 shooting.
"We're gonna make mistakes on offense, we're gonna miss some shots, but you can't take possessions off on defense," Scheyer said. "Proud of them buying in, proud of what we've done."
Scheyer, looking for backcourt depth in Roach’s absence, turned to freshman Jaden Schutt just over midway through the first half, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Illinois native promptly snatched an offensive rebound and nailed a step-back triple, displaying the stroke that played a major role in his four-star rating.
"You guys haven't been able to see it but he's worked before practice, after practice, he's been the best player on any team in scout that we've played against, and that's a role a lot of big time players have had here," Scheyer said on Schutt's preparation paying off.
"Always been confident [with] what I can do and what I can bring to the table," Schutt, who ended with three triples, said. "Man, obviously I haven't played much, but I gotta get in the gym and I gotta just work and get better."
Schutt hit another three in the second half to make it 54-34, cueing the crowd again. That was followed by a mini-run from Proctor, as the Australian drilled a three from the left wing and converted an and-one off an excellent cut to push the edge to 64-36.
With his primary backcourt mate sidelined, Proctor came up just short of his season-high with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor.
On the interior, Lively, Filipowski and—to a lesser extent—Young thoroughly outclassed the likes of Maryland Eastern Shore forwards Kohen Thompson (the Hawks’ tallest starter at 6-foot-7), Troy Hupstead and Nathaniel Pollard Jr. Lively, for his part, protected the rim like a fortress, racking up a quintet of blocks.
"I mean, that's just the rule every game. I know I'm the rim protector on that team, so that's just something that I take personally," Lively said.
His frontcourt mate was just as productive, only on the other end. Filipowski turned in his 12th straight double-digit scoring output to start the season, with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field.
"We're so comfortable playing with each other, same time on the floor. He had some high-lows to me, I had some passes to him," Filipowski said on his chemistry with Lively.
One area to nitpick for the Blue Devils was the turnover column. Duke was particularly sloppy with the ball in the first half, committing nine giveaways—five from Filipowski and Lively combined. The second half was not much of an improvement, as Duke finished with 19 turnovers on the night.
Saturday marks the end of a hectic stretch for the Blue Devils, with 12 games occupying the first 34 days of the season. All in all, while there were some uneven moments during nonconference play, Duke ends with a 3-2 record against Quadrant 1 opponents and remains unbeaten in Cameron Indoor.
With final exams on tap, Duke now gets a 10-day break before traveling to Winston Salem, N.C., to face 7-3 Wake Forest. Roach, who Scheyer said has been dealing with toe pain since injuring it Nov. 27 against Purdue, will be ready to go for that one, according to his head coach.
"His health comes first, before any game and this is the one chance we have for him to get back to 100%," Scheyer said. "So, he won't do anything for the next couple of days and he's already progressing healing wise."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.