After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The fourth-seed Blue Devils kicked off the ACC tournament in dominant fashion against No. 5-seed Pittsburgh, winning 96-69, and the Blue Zone breaks down the contest:
One player: Kyle Filipowski
This was simply an incredible game for freshman center Kyle Filipowski, continuing his momentum from his double-double showing in the Blue Devils’ 62-57 win against North Carolina. The statline speaks for itself: In only 15 minutes, Filipowski scored 22 points, shooting 8-for-10 from the field and 4-for-6 from deep.
Filipowski came out of the gate strong, knocking down a 3-pointer on each of Duke’s first two possessions of the contest. Though he briefly exited in the first half due to an ankle injury, he did not miss a beat in his return, scoring a game-high 14 points in that period. His versatility was on display throughout, and the 7-foot center was nearly impossible to guard. Filipowski was only 2-for-11 from behind the arc in his past four games, so his improved shooting was welcomed by the Blue Devils. After connecting on three first-half triples, the Westtown, N.Y., native converted an and-one in the paint. A similar pattern occurred in the second half, as Filipowski hung in the air for a difficult and-one finish following a mid-range jumper. He rounded out the Duke offense extremely well, and when the freshman shoots with this level of efficiency, there are few teams that can stop the Blue Devil attack moving forward.
One word: Perfection
Although perfection is a strong word, Duke’s product on the court against Pittsburgh was as close to perfect as possible. This game was just what the doctor ordered for the Blue Devils: a complete performance and utter domination on both ends of the floor. Coming into the contest, Pittsburgh was fourth in the ACC in scoring defense, giving up only 69.7 points per game. Duke blew this total out of the water, scoring 96 points, its highest all season. The offense moved the ball swiftly around the court as the Blue Devils had a season-high 27 assists. Freshman guard Tyrese Proctor recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, and junior guard Jeremy Roach chipped in with six dishes.
On the defensive end, Duke recorded seven steals and forced 10 Panther turnovers, leading to 17 points off of those giveaways. The Blue Devils’ strength all season has been their defense, as their length and athleticism has given opposing offenses nightmares. Nevertheless, the combination of potent scoring with stingy defense raises the ceiling for this team astronomically. With the momentum that Duke has built — now winning its last seven contests — it is hard to find teams that are playing this well at this time.
One stat: 62.1% from the field
The Blue Devil offense was a well-oiled machine Thursday afternoon, and there were many remarkable season-highs in this game. Perhaps most impressive was Duke’s field-goal percentage of 62.1%, by far the best the team has shot the ball all year. Its previous best, which came recently in its 81-65 victory against Virginia Tech, was 56.6%. Everything seemed to be working for the Blue Devils on the offensive end, as Duke shot 11-of-26 from deep while also outscoring the Panthers 46-30 in the paint.
Part of Duke’s offensive success in the past was its ability to rebound the ball well. When shots are falling at this rate, it makes the Blue Devils even tougher to guard. It is no secret that Duke is playing extremely cohesively right now, and this team is gelling together at the perfect time. In addition, the Blue Devils produced an extremely balanced scoring attack, as each starter scored at least nine points. If the end of the regular season was not a clear indication, this was a statement win showing that Duke is a real threat to go far in March.
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