The Duke Blue Devils teams of the recent past may have succumbed to an upset at the hands of Virginia Tech last evening. But this year's group found a way to battle through and in the process give fans a glimpse at a team that could adjust on the fly.
By halftime, it was clear that the Hokies came into Cameron focussed and well prepared coming off a huge win over St. Bonaventure. Even the start of the second half appeared to show a Blue Devils team wilting a bit under the pressure of ACC play.
Duke was forced to go smaller, playing Paolo Banchero at the five. And that adjustment helped the Blue Devils move to 11-1 on the season and 1-0 in the conference.
Banchero who led Duke in scoring with 23 points to go with 8 rebounds showed up when he was most needed. And the talented freshman once again became the clear go-to man as the teams' comeback and eventual eleven-point win.
The swiss army knife-like Wendell Moore Jr. was once again the Blue Devils' most steadying player. His leadership and calmness under pressure were once again both evident and vital.
This was also a game where AJ Griffin stepped up his game even more. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was quick to point out he had given Griffin more minutes to see how his conditioning was coming along and he did not disappoint.
I am on record as saying Griffin would be vital to the Blue Devils run this season at some point. But that point was last evening. Duke will continue to mix and match their lineups this season due to matchups but Griffin is starting to carve out a role with his strong play.
Despite the students being on break, the Cameron crowd did a heck of a job lifting the Blue Devils. In fact, both Banchero and Griffin mentioned that in the post-game presser.
And this was a valuable lesson for the younger players. They had already understood how tough life can be on the road with their loss at Ohio State. Now they know teams will come at them hard in Cameron too.
The Hokies solid play enabled the Blue Devils to get the push they needed to reach deep and pull off a win going into a seven-day break before traveling to Clemson.
The players are all set to return to their homes for the next three days of the Christmas and holiday break. They will do so as the nation's #2 team and more importantly, they took care of business in the ACC.
As for those who worry so and so players did not get minutes may I remind you this is a long season. Each and every one of the Duke rotation players will have their time in the spotlight. Virginia Tech was quick to react to the ball last evening and that forced the Blue Devils to go smaller than normal.