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Duke basketball lineup still a work in progress

Redshirt freshman Alex Murphy spent the entire game on the bench after starting both preseason games.
Redshirt freshman Alex Murphy spent the entire game on the bench after starting both preseason games.

Georgia State came to Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday with the hopes of learning from one of the best teams in Division I, but Duke learned some lessons as well.

The Panthers presented Duke with an unconventional playing style, and the Blue Devils responded with their own variations in play. Although Duke came out victorious 74-55 in its 13th consecutive season-opening victory, Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that many of the lineups are still a work in progress.

“We’re still looking at what our team can do,” Krzyzewski said. “At times we’re just going to have different lineups in there.”

Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter’s atypical strategy included varying his team’s normal zone defenses and three quarter court presses, as well as playing four ball handlers at once.

“Most people don’t play like [Georgia State],” Krzyzewski said. “They played unconventionally. Unconventional doesn’t mean that it’s weird, it’s just something most people don’t play.”

Krzyzewski began the night with a somewhat different lineup, starting three guards—senior Seth Curry, freshman Rasheed Sulaimon and junior Tyler Thornton—alongside senior forwards Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee.

Although Krzyzewski announced in the preseason that Cook would start at point guard, the sophomore said he was informed Monday that Thornton would get the nod. The two spent a lot of time on the court together in an attempt to increase the number of ball handlers on the floor.

“They played me off the ball a little bit this week in practice,” Thornton said. “We tried a few different lineups. We’re both able to play on and off the ball. Coach is going to be able to use us in a lot of different ways this year.”

Although redshirt freshman Alex Murphy started in both of Duke’s preseason games and was dressed to play Friday, he did not step foot on the court. Krzyzewski noted that Murphy is not injured, and explained his absence as a coach’s decision.

“We just didn’t get to where Alex would play,” Krzyzewski said. “But Alex has got to be able to play.”

To counter the Panthers, Krzyzewski frequently substituted players based on offensive and defensive matchups. He often played three guards and, at times, two point guards. He also utilized the size of his team, using Plumlee, Kelly and freshman Amile Jefferson simultaneously at the end of the first half. In this instance, Jefferson played small forward, giving the team more length on the perimeter.

Plumlee led the team with 12 shots, a feat that did not happen often last season. Krzyzewski noted that Plumlee is an “outstanding player” who is a strong passer, but added that it also takes responsible shooters who can create open passing lanes to score successfully.

“We want to touch the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “[Plumlee] touching the ball has got to be one of the things we do.”

The Blue Devils may once again utilize varying zone defenses and big men on the court Tuesday in Atlanta, where they will face Kentucky, the reigning national champions.

“I don’t know about their talent level. I haven’t watched them,” Krzyzewski said. “As much as I really admire what [the media] does, I never really take its opinions on player personnel. It’s a big time game because its Duke and Kentucky…. I know they’ll be really good and very well coached.” With Kentucky sporting a lineup with elite length and speed, the Blue Devils must continue to vary their lineups.


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