After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The Blue Devils emerged victorious against Southern Indiana to complete the Blue Devil Challenge, and the Blue Zone analyzes the contest:
One player: Kyle Filipowski
It was another strong game for the second-year big man, who posted a team-high 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the field. While Filipowski did not make any of his three attempts from behind the arc, he once again proved why is an invaluable piece of this Blue Devil squad. He was a comfortable and confident scorer for a Duke team that found itself down at the half to a weaker opponent in Southern Indiana. He scored 15 points in the second period, leading the hosts as they came roaring back after a disappointing start. Beyond just the scoring, Filipowski was a key facilitator. He recorded 14 total rebounds, including four on the offensive glass. He maintained a +19 plus-minus, the second-best rating on the team.
For a team that has been inconsistent at times this year, the Blue Devils have been able to look to the Westtown, N.Y., native as a source of offensive production, rebounding and leadership. While he struggled along with the rest of the team in the first half of the game, Filipowski led a big-time comeback in the second period to help his team past the Screaming Eagles. He will likely continue to fill that role as a source of points in the weeks to come.
One word: Ugly
Southern Indiana is a transitioning Division I school, now playing its first few years at the highest level of college basketball. The Screaming Eagles are ranked No. 333 out of 362 in the KenPom rankings. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, are ranked No. 12. Despite that glaring difference in skill, Duke trailed 35-31 at the half. The home team struggled to make shots, going an abysmal 1-for-8 from deep in the initial period and shooting 37.5% from the field.
Despite that, the Blue Devils demonstrated their resilience in the second half. The latter period was noticeably better for the squad, as the shot selection looked better, the passing was smarter and the individual players were more decisive. Filipowski was 6-for-7 from the field and senior guard Jeremy Roach shot a similarly impressive 5-for-8 as the duo scored a combined 31 points. The 3-point shooting was also improved, although still to just 4-for-10. Overall, the second period was a much stronger half. While it still was not an ideal game, what really mattered is that the home team got the win. This is a young squad, and not every victory will be pretty. Now, Duke will need to work on its consistency going forward into the coming weeks.
One stat: 17-for-28 free throws
One area where the Blue Devils really struggled Friday was from the charity stripe. This is a team that typically draws a lot of fouls, due to players like Filipowski who take up a lot of space inside. Despite that, Duke was unable to convert on a significant proportion of its shots. Going forward against stronger teams, shooting just 60.7% from the line will not be enough to get wins for this squad. The Blue Devils have proven that they are more than capable of getting to the line. In the future, they must work to convert at a higher rate.
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