After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The Blue Devils returned home Friday, defeating Bucknell 90-60, and the Blue Zone is here to break down the win:
One Player: Mark Mitchell
This was Mitchell’s strongest performance of the season so far, and it’s not not even close. The Kansas City, Kan., native scored a career-high 20 points while adding two assists and a block. Mitchell was also perfect from the line, nailing all three of his free throw attempts. It is safe to say that he has more than made up for his poor offensive performance against Arizona — where he went 0-of-4 from deep and 4-of-10 from the field.
It is worth noting that Mitchell did indeed make a 3-point shot during the game, shooting 1-for-3 from beyond the arc. Although he has improved his offensive game, Mitchell is still working on a consistent 3-point shot. With the Blue Devils’ reliance on the three this season, Mitchell’s development as a solid shooter could take Duke’s offense to another level.
Mitchell’s presence was also felt on the defensive end. In addition to his two blocks and two steals, he was key in the defensive rotation and guarded almost every position. There are few players with Mitchell’s size and height that are able to defend centers and guards as well as he does. As the Blue Devils’ “Freshman Four” continue to adjust, it will be crucial for Mitchell to have these games, especially as the team looks to beat higher-ranked teams.
One stat: 23 second-chance points
It is not every game that you’ll see a team score 23 second-chance points, especially considering that Duke had just 19 second-chance points in its last two games combined. Most notably, freshman guard Jared McCain accumulated an impressive 10 rebounds as part of his first double-double of his collegiate career. In total, the Blue Devils out rebounded Bucknell 46-27 — a huge reason why the Bisons could not catch up after the first quarter. The fact that Bucknell did not generate a single second chance point shows just how dominant Duke was on the boards. If the Blue Devils are able to maintain this efficiency and grab offensive boards, they are poised to increase their scoring significantly. Considering that Duke’s only loss so far this season came after conceding 13 second-chance points, securing boards on defense and generating offensive rebounds will be imperative for the team’s overall success moving forward.
One word: Variety
In a game which displayed six players scoring at least nine points, the Blue Devils demonstrated that they have a variety of weapons in their arsenal. Further, Duke found different ways to score. In total, the Blue Devils had 23 second-chance points, 15 fast-break points, 14 points off turnovers and 34 points in the paint. More importantly is the fact that the team had a season high in 3-point field goals made, going 13-34 from beyond the arc. Even with sophomore center Kyle Filipowski missing a portion of the first half and being limited during the second half, this game showed that when Duke gets hot from three, it is capable of blowing a game wide open in a matter of minutes. Rather than relying solely on Filipowski as the primary source for offense, the Blue Devils showed that they can get points up and down the roster and give the big man a break.
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