5 observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Bucknell

Sophomore forward Mark Mitchell (game-high 16 points) helped Duke to a 15-point halftime lead against the Bison.
Sophomore forward Mark Mitchell (game-high 16 points) helped Duke to a 15-point halftime lead against the Bison.

Back home from its brief road trip to Chicago, No. 9 Duke led throughout the first half against visiting Bucknell during Friday’s opener of the Blue Devil Challenge. With 20 minutes to play, the Blue Devils lead 44-29.

Defending the paint

From the tip, Bucknell made it a priority to attack the paint as sophomore forward Ruot Bijiek backed down Mark Mitchell for the first bucket of the game. Kyle Filipowski and the Blue Devils responded well, using their length advantage to limit opportunities. With 16:23 remaining in the half, Filipowski streaked across the court to swat a layup attempt by Ian Motta harmlessly off the glass. Another play saw Roach lose a step on Josh Bascoe, but a sliding Filipowski forced an errant pass that deflected off his aloft arm and out of bounds. The Bison were limited to six points in the paint in the first half and resorted to taking a lot more shots from the outside.

Attacking the 2-3

With the matchup advantage in one-on-one situations favoring Duke, Bucknell opted to trot out a 2-3 zone defense, forcing the Blue Devils to take outside shots to score efficiently. Freshman guard Jared McCain got Duke going, swishing an open three from the right-hand corner. Senior guard Jeremy Roach was also able to take advantage of the extra room on the outside, knocking down a long two after a neat shimmy. 

Duke’s success from the outside allowed its forwards more space to work on the inside and exploit its height advantage. Mitchell and Filipowski finished with 16 and eight points, respectively, leading the team. The Blue Devils were also able to exploit miscommunications on inbounds, as one play from under the basket allowed the bouncy Sean Stewart to rise above his defender and slam it home.

Filipowski injury

Cameron Indoor became deathly quiet when Filipowski went down with a lower-body injury after tangling with a Bison defender with 4:04 remaining in the first half. The sophomore was audibly groaning in pain and had to be helped to the locker room by reserve center Stanley Borden and members of the training staff. Duke will hope that the Westtown, N.Y., native, who converted on 3-of-4 attempts from the floor and made his presence felt on the defensive glass before going down, can return in the second half. In his absence, Ryan Young picked up where he left off on the defensive end, stealing a ball and slamming it home in transition with about 1:15 remaining to put the Blue Devils up by 12. 

Jack Forrest fire

Senior guard Jack Forrest, Bucknell’s leading scorer with 16.8 points per game, caught fire about midway through the first half. The Montgomery, Pa., native went on a 10-point scoring spree in which the Bisons climbed back from down 19-9 to 21-19. Working against Duke’s sophomore captain Tyrese Proctor, Forrest found ways to create good looks from inside and outside of the paint. Matched up against Jaylen Blakes toward the end of the half, Forrest cooled down a bit, finishing the half with 15 points at a 44% clip. 

Player of the half: Mark Mitchell

Mitchell thrived facing the zone. Receiving the ball with his back to the basket at the free throw line with no immediate pressure, the Kansas City, Kan., native was able to create good high-percentage looks off of his pivot foot and capitalize. One pass from Caleb Foster with 9:33 remaining allowed Mitchell to lay it off the glass with ease against the smaller defender. A later basket through contact ignited the Cameron Crazies with a minute to go in the first half. Mitchell even knocked one down from behind the arc: Left alone on the fast break, he calmly converted from long range. Expect the Blue Devils to go to him early and often in the second half. 


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