No. 15 Duke left no doubt in the first half of its final nonconference game Saturday, jumping out to a big lead against visiting Maryland Eastern Shore. One half remains, and the Blue Devils are in the driver’s seat with a 39-21 advantage.
Whitehead’s first start
Freshman guard Dariq Whitehead grabbed the first start of his Duke career. The third-ranked player in the 2022 class suffered a foot injury in August and was sidelined for the start of the season, making his debut against Delaware Nov. 18. With junior captain Jeremy Roach held out Saturday with a toe injury, Whitehead got the nod. The forward played 13 minutes, scoring two points while grabbing two rebounds, an assist and a steal. He did momentarily leave the floor, seemingly limping, but returned a few minutes later.
First all-freshman starting 5
This game is a battle between youth and experience. Duke’s all-freshman starting lineup, its first ever, was matched up against three seniors and two graduate students from Maryland Eastern Shore. The experience disparity was evident early, as the Blue Devils’ first five offensive possessions ended with a turnover or missed shot. Though the Hawks got on the board first, Duke’s talent quickly overwhelmed them. The Blue Devils quickly took control, going on a 30-7 run over the next 12 minutes.
Defense, defense, defense
Once again, the Blue Devils’ defense was their strength throughout the first half. It shut down Maryland Eastern Shore’s offensive attack, holding it scoreless for a stretch of more than four minutes and only allowing 21 points, just more than its season-low of 18 in a half. While offensive production continued to evade Duke, its stifling defense was enough to keep it safely in front.
Boosts off the bench
While the leading story has been Duke’s all-freshman starters, it was the veterans off the bench who got the Blue Devils going. Jaylen Blakes, Jacob Grandison and Ryan Young all entered the game with 15 minutes to play in the half, and helped Duke score 10 points over the next 3:30, extending the Blue Devils’ lead from two to 12.
Player of the half: Dereck Lively II
In the first five minutes of play, Lively had three blocks. The 7-foot-1 center kept Duke afloat as it struggled to get going, scoring his team’s first four points and totaling six in the period. He finished the half with five rebounds and four blocks, both career-highs. While his offensive numbers may not be the most noteworthy, Lively’s defensive talent shut down numerous Hawks’ possessions, giving Duke an advantage even when its shots weren’t falling.
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Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.