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Monday Musings – Bowl Week for Duke

DSC_0310I’m personally excited that it is finally bowl week and look forward to watching Duke take on a tough 15th ranked  Arizona State Wildcats team on Saturday.  I want to also wish all of the Blue Devil Nation Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas and hope all of you can spend time with loved ones.  Please consider saving me the leftovers this holiday season and with that said here is an abbreviated version of Monday Musings to get the week started.

Plenty to Play For

The Duke Blue Devils football team takes on the Arizona State Sun Devils this coming Saturday in the Sun Bowl.  The event has long been covered by CBS Sports and they provided plenty of commercials for the annual game during their NFL telecasts on Sunday.  I cannot help but to think back to watching the Sun Devils throttle Notre Dame and their coach in the post game interview.  Like Duke, Arizona State is seeking respect and he hammered home how hungry his team was.  But there is hunger on the Duke side as well and the Blue Devils desperately want a bowl win.  With a win, Duke would likely once again place in the final top 25 at the end of the season.  It’ll be a tall order for the underdog David Cutliffe led Blue Devils and it will be a fun game to watch unfold.  Kickoff is at 2:00 and look for our preview coming later this week.  Blue Devil Nation will take in the game as well where Patrick Cacchio will be their live for all the happenings.

Wallace Wade Improvements

One could not help but notice when walking to a Duke Men’s Basketball game the changes occurring at Wallace Wade Stadium.  The field is indeed being lowered and the crews are working around the clock to makes sure the first phase stays on schedule.  There are many fans who waited a good long time for a facelift to happen.  While I miss walking or running around the track already thinking back on Duke Football ghosts past, I look more forward to new memories.  The football program has plenty of momentum and the dedication needed from the Duke Administration to compete at a high level now.  The future looks bright for Cutcliffe and his program and it’s good to know that the coach has found his home.

A Dose of Reality

In the last two wins over Elon and UConn, the Blue Devils at times looked vulnerable.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed to this post Elon win and provided a myriad of possible reasons.  Duke is flying high right now at 10-0 but the coming ACC slate is a beast this season.  With the way this team started the season, they looked as if they were at the top of their game.  But there are plenty of more lessons to be learned from a group which starts three freshman.  Those lessons will become more clear to us as the games come more frequently on the schedule past the final holiday break.  For the record, most of the team has gone home to their families, so it’s a good thing Duke has two non conference games to shake off the rust upon their return.

Figuring Out Scheduling

The always nice Holiday Invitational kicks off this coming Friday in Raleigh where Duke prospects Brandon Ingram, Dennis Smith Jr. take center stage.  Unfortunately, the Duke Bowl game takes place the same Saturday.  Duke takes on Toledo at home on the final day of the event and the women’s team takes on UConn the same evening.  That schedule makes it tough on local Duke fans who want to watch possible future hoopsters compete.

Lance King Photo

No. 2 Duke Defeats UConn

Clemson v DukeEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Freshman point guard Tyus Jones scored 21 points, Justise Winslow hit two key baskets late in the game and No. 2 Duke beat defending national champion Connecticut 66-56 on Thursday night.

Winslow and Jahlil Okafor — the other two members of the Blue Devils’ trio of talented freshmen — added 12 points apiece. Ahead 30-25 at the break, Duke (10-0) got off to a slow start in the second half and UConn (4-4) tied it.

Amile Jefferson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Duke in a game that had the feel and intensity of a NCAA tournament contest.

Ryan Boatright had 22 points to lead the Huskies. Kentan Facey added 14 points and Daniel Hamilton had 10.

Duke has won all 10 of its games by at least 10 points, but this one was a lot closer being played in the Izod Center in the Meadowlands sports complex before a near sellout, pro-Huskies crowd.

The Blue Devils led by five at the half despite turning the ball over 12 times, but it was obvious Coach K was not happy. After Duke missed the opening shot of the second half, Connecticut got an easy basket.

That didn’t turn the tide right away. UConn tied the game at 30 and had a chance to take the lead but Boatright missed the second of two free throws.

It was all Duke after that. The Blue Devils went on a 15-2 spurt with Winslow putting in a rebound and Jones hitting a layup for the first four points.

Connecticut made a couple of runs. It drew within 53-45 on one of Boatright’s three second-half 3-pointers, but Okafor hit two free throws.

Consecutive rebound follows by Facey got UConn within 57-51 with 3:48 to play, but Winslow hit a 3-pointer off a Jones feed and Jones added two free throws to push the lead to 62-51.

Connecticut’s last chance came when Boatright hit another 3-pointer to close to gap to 62-56 with 2:00 to go, but Winslow followed the second of two missed free throws by Okafor with a rebound layup and Duke was never threatened.

Quinn Cook added 10 points for Duke, which did not get a point from its bench. The Blue Devils came into the game shooting almost 54 percent from the field. They were limited to 37.5 percent by Connecticut on 18 of 48 shooting. The difference was at the free throw line where Duke was 25 of 34.

Connecticut, which shot nearly 43 percent, only took 13 free throws, making seven.

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UConn vs Duke By The Numbers

,,njDuke takes on the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies this Thursday evening.  Here are the significant numbers provided by Duke Sports Information.

Opening Tip

• Duke (9-0) travels to East Rutherford, N.J., to face Connecticut (4-3) at the Izod Center Thursday, Dec. 18. Tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m. with ESPN televising the contest.

• Duke enters the game ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 115-18 when ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll. Connecticut is unranked in both polls.

• Duke has won 27 straight games in the month of December dating back to a Dec. 2, 2009 loss at Wisconsin.

• The Blue Devils have shot 50 percent or better from the field seven times this season and are second in the NCAA in field goal percentage (.537).

• Duke is looking to open the season with 10 straight wins for the 19th time in school history and the 14th time under Coach K.

• Duke is 20-1 all-time at the Izod Center (formerly the Meadowlands), including a 10-0 mark in NCAA Tournament play.


The Last Time Out

• Jahlil Okafor turned in a dominating performance, leading Duke to a 75-62 win over Elon Monday. He posted 25 points and 20 rebounds to become the sixth player at Duke to register a 20-20 game.

• Okafor set a Duke freshman record with 20 rebounds and matched the single-game freshman offensive rebound (10) mark in the win.

• Amile Jefferson (13), Justise Winslow (12) and Rasheed Sulaimon (11) also scored in double figures for the Blue Devils.

• Duke shot 65.0 percent (26-of-40) from inside the three-point arc against the Phoenix. Okafor (10-of-14) and Jefferson (6-of-7) combined to shoot 76.2 percent (16-of-21) from the field.

By the numbers

• Duke has won 13 consecutive games at the Izod Center (formerly the Meadowlands), including a 79-78 win over Connecticut March 24, 1990. Christian Laettner hit a 17-footer at the buzzer to advance the Blue Devils to the Final Four.

• The Blue Devils are one of nine remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA. Duke and Kentucky are the only teams in that group to win each game by 10 or more points.

• Duke has won each of the first nine games by 10 or more points, marking the first time since the 2002-03 season it has accomplished that feat. The Blue Devils have never opened a season with 10 straight double figure victories.

• The Blue Devils have trailed for just 4:54 through the first nine games of the season. Duke’s largest deficit this season has been four points.

• Freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow have started all nine games for the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 44 times at Duke, including 27 times during the 1982-83 season.

• Duke’s top-rated freshman class – Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow – combines to average 45.2 points per game while shooting an efficient 54.2 percent (143-of-264) from the field. The group has accounted for 20 of Duke’s 37 double figure scoring games.

• Quinn Cook has made at least one three-point field goal in each of the past 19 games. He is shooting 42.2 percent (46-of-109) from behind the arc in that stretch. Cook leads the ACC in three-point field goals (2.67 3pg.) this season.

• Duke’s starting frontcourt of Jahlil Okafor and Amile Jefferson combines to average 27.3 points and 16.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 67.3 percent (107-of-159) from the field.

• Jahlil Okafor, a three-time ACC Freshman of the Week selection, leads the ACC in field goal percentage (.655), while also ranking among the league leaders in scoring (2nd – 18.0 ppg.), rebounds (T-5th – 9.0 rpg.), offensive rebounds (1st – 4.2 orpg.) and blocks (T-8th – 1.7 bpg.).

• Quinn Cook is averaging a team-high 18.0 points to go along with 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in neutral site contests. He is 18-of-36 (.500) from the field, including 10-of-21 (.476) from three-point range in the three games.

• In Monday’s win over Elon, Jahlil Okafor became the first Division I freshman to record 25 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in a game since Michael Beasley in 2007. Okafor also became just the second freshman (joining Joe Smith, Maryland) in ACC history to register a 20-20 game.

• Amile Jefferson is 20-of-23 (.870) from the field over the past four games and is averaging 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in that span.

• Duke ranks second in the NCAA with a +26.9 scoring margin. The Blue Devils have won all nine games by double figures, including three games by 30 or more points.

• The Blue Devils have shot 50.0 percent or better from the field in the second half seven times and are shooting 55.1 percent (136-of-247) from the field in the second half of play on the year.

• Rasheed Sulaimon has scored in double figures in three straight games and is averaging 12.7 points per game in that stretch. He is 13-of-27 (.481) from the field with a 7.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the last three games.

• Duke is looking for its first 10-game win streak since the start of the 2012-13 season. The Blue Devils opened that campaign with 15 consecutive wins.

Justise Winslow

Okafor Heroics Overshadowed By Poor Team Play In Win

Justise WinslowThe Duke Blue Devils shook off their holiday rust against a spirited and pesky Elon team on Monday evening. When the dust cleared, Duke came away with a 75-62 victory and are now 9-0 on the season.

Duke was led by Jahlil Okafor who tallied 25 points and 20 rebounds on his birthday. At the 11:36 mark in the second half, Okafor with 18 rebounds at that time had as many as the entire Elon team. Despite that fact, it was a lack luster performance from the rest of the team.

Duke did not share the ball like they had in previous games and seemed sluggish after the exam break. The Blue Devils also seemed to have a tough time putting their big win at Wisconsin behind them.

Duke shot just 3 of 16 from beyond the three-point stripe and went just 14 of 27 from the free throw line. During the post game press conference Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski also said that his team didn’t block out well nor did they fight for loose balls.

What does all that mean? Well, for one thing there will be quite a tough practice tomorrow before the team heads to New Jersey where they will take on the defending national champion in the Connecticut Huskies

What we also learned tonight was that this team has a core of freshman who are just that. Krzyzewski pointed to his first year players experiencing things for the first time, such as the long lay off and coming off a big Duke win.

The Blue Devils dealt with a lot of intangibles on this evening and they learned that they can indeed get caught napping which could lead to an upset unless they bring consistent effort to each game.  Despite the staff having drilled that into the team earlier in the week, the lesson was furthered on the court against Elon where Duke could never pull away.

“We didn’t do the hard things.  Hard things would be finishes.  Hard things would be being strong with the ball.  Hard things would be to be to talk. Hard things would be to dive for loose balls,” said Krzyzewski.  And that just scratches the surface of many other comments made about his disappointment in his team’s performance.

Coming into the game, Duke was averaging over 100 ppg in Cameron this season and after each win, it was a joyous locker room.  But tonight, you could hear a pin drop.  There were no celebrations and the players were not happy with their performances.

“We have to have really good practices, starting tomorrow,” said Duke Captain Amile Jefferson after the win.  “Guys have to come tomorrow ready to work.”

Kyrzyzewski hit the nail on the head with concern to Okafors sensational stat line.  He knew it was a great performance, but the rest of the team just didn’t play up to the lofty standards it will take to continue to build on early season success.

On this night, Okafors stat line hid the stagnant offensive output and it almost seemed like a wasted effort.  Why?  Because it was overshadowed by some non Duke like play.  If it weren’t bad enough that Duke struggled on the evening with consistency, they got a cheap foul in the end which cut the lead down significantly and it was just one of the many things which seemed to make Krzyzewski’s  blood boil.

The victory was the 114th consecutive non conference win Cameron and Krzzyewski now stands at 992 victories.  Duke won its 159th game this decade, second in the nation during that time span.

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Duke v. Elon Game Notes

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OPENING TIP

• Duke (8-0) returns to action after an 11-day hiatus between games to host Elon (5-4) Monday, Dec. 15 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. with ESPNU televising the contest.

• Duke enters the game ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 114-18 when ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll. Elon is unranked in both polls.

• The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 37 consecutive games at Cameron Indoor Stadium entering Monday’s contest.

• Duke has won 26 straight games in the month of December dating back to a Dec. 2, 2009 loss at Wisconsin.

• The Blue Devils have shot 50 percent or better from the field six times this season and are second in the NCAA in field goal percentage (.539).

• Duke has won each of the first eight games by 10-or-more points, marking the first time since the 2002-03 season it has accomplished that feat. The Blue Devils opened the 2002-03 campaign with nine straight double digit wins.

• Duke is looking to open the season with nine straight wins for the 22nd time in school history. Coach K-led teams have started 9-0 15 times at Duke.

THE LAST TIME OUT

• Duke is coming off an 80-70 win at No. 2 Wisconsin Wednesday, Dec. 3. The Blue Devils shot 65.2 percent (30-of-46) to become the first visiting team to shoot over 60 percent from the field in the 18-year history of the Kohl Center.

• Tyus Jones led four double-figure scorers with a season-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Rasheed Sulaimon (14), Quinn Cook (13) and Jahlil Okafor (13) also scored in double figures.

BY THE NUMBERS

• Duke has won each of the first eight games by 10-or-more points, marking the first time since the 2002-03 season it has accomplished that feat. The Blue Devils opened the 2002-03 campaign with nine straight double digit wins.

• The Blue Devils have trailed for just 4:54 through the first eight games of the season. Duke’s largest deficit this season has been four points.

• Duke is averaging 102.0 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting (151-of-257) at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season. The Blue Devils have scored 90-or-more points in all four home games with a pair of 100-point efforts.

• Eight different Blue Devils have scored in double figures this season with Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor reaching double figures in all eight contests.

• Freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow have started all eight games for the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 43 times at Duke, including 27 times during the 1982-83 season.

• Duke’s top-rated freshman class – Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow – combines to average 45.9 points per game while shooting an efficient 53.6 percent (128-of-239) from the field. The group has accounted for 18 of Duke’s 33 double figure scoring games this season.

• Quinn Cook has scored in double figures in all eight games and ranks ninth in the ACC in scoring at 15.3 ppg. He leads the ACC in three-point field goals (2.88 3pg.), while also ranking among the conference leaders in three-point percentage (.442 – 6th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.63:1 – 3rd).

• Jahlil Okafor, a three-time ACC Freshman of the Week selection, ranks second in the ACC in scoring (17.1 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.646), while also ranking among the league leaders in rebounds (12th – 7.6 rpg.), offensive rebounds (T-5th – 3.5 orpg.) and blocks (9th – 1.5 bpg.).

• Tyus Jones is averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game over the last two contests. He is 11-of-19 (.579) from the field and 13-of-16 (.813) from the foul line in that span.

• Jahlil Okafor is averaging 20.3 points per game on 77.1 percent (37-of-48) shooting in four home contests.

• Amile Jefferson continues to be active on the glass, averaging a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game (9th in the ACC). He has collected 29 offensive rebounds and is tied for third in the league in that category (3.63 orpg.).

• Matt Jones is averaging 7.0 points per game, while shooting 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from three-point range. As a freshman, Jones was just 3-of-21 (.143) from behind the arc and averaged 1.8 ppg.

• Duke’s post rotation of Amile Jefferson, Jahlil Okafor and Marshall Plumlee combines to average 29.6 points and 19.0 rebounds per game while shooting 67.1 percent (100-of-149) from the field.

• Duke went 15-of-21 (.714) from the field in the second half of its road win over No. 2 Wisconsin. The Blue Devils are now shooting 55.5 percent (151-of-257) from the field in the second half of play this season.

• The Blue Devils are one of 10 remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA. Duke and Kentucky are the only teams in that group to win each game by 10-or-more points.

• Duke is 51-8 all-time against teams currently in the Colonial Athletic Association, including an active 26-game win streak.