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Defense Keys Duke Romp Over Hokies

Grayson Allen was the Player of the Game for Duke. Defense keys Duke win over Hokies.

The Duke Blue Devils played their best forty minutes of basketball this season.  The result was an impressive 74-52 ACC win over Virginia Tech.  The win sets up a situation where the (9-4 ACC, 21-5 overall) Blue Devils can move into second place with a win at Clemson this weekend.

Duke played zone the entire contest and more importantly they talked to one another on the defensive end.  "We stress talk.  The system we try to teach is offense, defense and communication.  But defensively, especially in zone, when you are talking you will be wider," said Krzyzewski.

The Duke coach also acknowledged it was his teams best defensive game of the season.  The Blue Devils helped themselves after a half time adjustment where the Hokies had nine turnovers after just one at the break.

Grayson Allen led Duke with 25 points and was the kind of leader the staff envisioned for Duke tonight.  "He's our leader.  We've had him off the ball a lot, so he has tried to lead from there but the ball is not in his hands.  With the ball in his hands he can make plays and call plays and is in more command, said Krzyzewski.

You can expect the strategy of Allen having the ball in his hands more to continue for Krzyzewski acknowledged it has helped the team in their last two outings.

All of the Duke players Blue Devil Nation spoke with after the game said this was their best 40 minute effort of the season.  And all of them had things to say about their communication in a zone defense that held a potent Hokies team to just 52 points.

Gary Trent Jr. added 19 points for Duke.  He was joined by Revon Duval (10 points) and Wendell Carter Jr. (13 points and 13 rebounds) as double figure scorers.

Duke started Marques Bolden (2 blocked shots) in the first half but opted for Javin DeLaurier in the second half.  DeLarurier played with energy and went 3 for 3 from the field and was on the end of some outstanding passes.  Those scores helped Duke gain continued energy in their victory.

The Blue Devils also scored 18 second chance points and tallied seven steals in the game to just one for the Hokies.  Duke held a monster advantage on the boards with a 36-19 advantage despite their leading scorer and rebounder in Marvin Bagley III being sidelined with an injury.

Duke can take over sole possession of 2nd place in the ACC with a win at Clemson this Sunday.  That game tips off at 1:00 and will be televised by the ACC Network.

Coach K Tidbits

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski briefly addressed the media today.  Here are  some tidbits from that Q & A.

-If there is one thing that bothered the Duke coach in not only the loss to St. Johns but in the games of late; that would be turnovers.  Krzyzewski said that many of the turnovers against St. Johns were unforced.  "A really good team doesn't need to beat itself and when you commit that many turnovers we beat ourselves."

-Krzyzewski would like to see a more aggressive Grayson Allen.  he wants him to shoot hunt his shot and to play aggressive. "He has done that for the most part but not all the time. He is trying to help his teammates but you have to be careful not to lose some of you."

-Krzyzewski said it is easy to see what his team has to do better and while he is not minimizing issues as a simple fix -- he feels hard work will get the team to where it needs to be,

-Krzyzewski praised UNC for still being a good rebounding team despite playing a smaller lineup.  "Thursdays game is not an end all.  It is a huge game but there will be another after that.  Their program and out program is built on more than one game."

-When asked of struggles of late, Krzyzewski said, "Nobody wants to be at their peak in February."

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Zion Williamson Visits Duke

Zion Williamson with his mom in Cameron Indoor Stadium

Team Williamson was in the stands for the Duke vs Virginia game this past weekend.  Zion Williamson was able to see more of the Duke campus and the facilities with members of his family.  Flanked by his  mom Sharonda Sampson, they sat behind the Duke bench.  Be sure to check out the documentary below which is sure to get  you excited while allowing you to the the character of the Blue Devil to  be.

The Morning After For Duke Basketball

Cameron was packed for a national showcase game. Pom-poms were handed out and the crowd was ready for a win. But the team fell short and must now learn from a tough lesson.

There was an NCAA type intensity in the Duke loss to Virginia yesterday.  It is true that the Blue Devils had the home advantage which makes the Virginia Cavaliers win even more impressive.

After the dust cleared Virginia moved to 20-1 on the season solidifying their ranking.  Their coach, Tony Bennett, said that his team knew exactly who they were as a team.  He inferred that his squad knew their roles and played as one on the court, not caring who takes the shots.

On the other side, Duke lost a game on Coach K Court in Cameron Indoor Stadium which is rare.  They pretty much allowed Virginia the regular season crown by not taking care of the business at hand.  That means, one goal is all but done -- that being the regular season ACC crown.

Unlike Virginia, Duke is a young team that is trying find their stride.  The Blue Devils, while good, are not playing like a well oiled machine just yet.  And that is a fact, despite a starting lineup that is playing exclusively together.

On one hand, it is still early in the season with ten regular season games left.  On the other hand, the staff needs to push the right buttons and start to see results and togetherness.  With injured players Marques Bolden about to enter the fray and Javin DeLaurier starting to get healthy, team chemistry will be a challenge.

That is the keyword, right there.  Chemistry.  For this team to make great things happen, it has to improve.  Yes, Virginia is the best defensive team in the nation.  But the 16 turnovers Duke committed in the game was far too many.

Countless times, Duke tried to pass the ball through defenders or they would passes were not properly anticipated.  Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have just five turnovers and shoot lights out from the free throw stripe.

The game plan to beat Virginia is to not beat yourself with turnovers and bad shot selection.  Missed front ends of one and ones helped doom the Blue Devils as did not playing smart when the game was on the line.  You must value every possession.

The Duke defense was not that bad.  In fact, the team, at times, looked great in that area.  But Virginia would find just enough spacing to launch some timely three pointers.  And this happened despite the fact that making their guards dribble or penetrate while limiting space is the way to go.

The Blue Devils looked dead in the water at the half.  And perhaps they dug too deep of a hole to climb out of.  But after a raucous comeback, where they took the lead came some untimely carelessness.

In short, the opportunities were there but the team could not execute well enough at crunch time for a win.  And that points to questions.  The main one being, can this team turn the corner in short time and play with more rhythm and better chemistry.

Maybe this is the way it will be with a young team. But Duke is immensely talented and capable, despite its youth.  Duke had dominate performances from Marvin Bagley III and Wendel Carter Jr. which felt wasted.   The teams guards were not consistent nor effective as a group, especially in some of the mental aspects og the game.

While there is no particular blame for the loss, there is concern with the back court.  Gary Trent seemed to get back to the way he was playing before the loss to N.C. State instead of allowing the game to come with him.

Despite leading the league in assists, Trevon Duval made a very untimely pass into the teeth of the Virginia defense late in the game.  It was a deflating turnover which was majorly risky.

As for Grayson Allen, he did not seem like himself in the loss.  Nor has he of late where his offensive output has been streaky  at best.  And in this game, his other stat lines were not making up for his sudden shooting woes.

Another thing which from my non coaching vantage seemed amiss, was that Duke allowed the Virginia defense to set up.  There were times towards the end of the game where the movement to take advantage of an unbalanced defense was not there.  And that had something to do with spacing and not putting game pressure on when you had numbers.

But credit Virginia.  They play a methodical and systematic style which causes players to doubt their instincts.  While Duke is the more talented team, Virginia was the most savvy group where they played older and wiser.

The good news is that there is time to get better for Duke.  The bad news is that the window closes each game out.  With March madness approaching the staff will need to see some better results.

At some point this team has to get on the same page and cut down on errors.  That potential efficiency can take this team far and maybe to the promised land.   But at this point in the season, as Mike Krzyzewski has said, they either will or they won't -- it is that simple.

The current reality is that Duke has little time to learn anything with Notre Dame visiting Cameron on Monday evening.  But perhaps the experience from top five showdown loss will spur them to a much needed win.

 

10 Random Thoughts on Duke’s Comeback Win

Photo Miami Herald.

They did it again!  Just when you thought the team was about to lose their third game of the season, Duke came alive.  The Blue Devils uses an 18-0 run to shock Miami and snatch a key ACC road win.  Without further ado, here is volume V of 10 Random Thoughts on Duke Basketball.

30 Point Efforts

No other team in the ACC has more than two players with 30 plus scoring games this season.  Duke, on the other hand, has now had players go for 30 points or over in seven games.  Last night it was Gary Tent Jr.s turn.  After being sick the game before against Wake Forest and still playing well, Trent followed up that game with 30 points which included some big time three pointers.  His effort helped Duke remain undefeated against teams in the current A.P. Top 25.

Comeback Artists

Trailing 66-53, Duke went on an 18-0 run and outscored Miami 27-4 over that  stretch which sealed their fourth conference win.  Gary Trent went 6 of 9 from three-point range, knocking down two consecutive trays to start the comeback.  Trevon Duval also stepped up his game after struggling with turnovers early in the game and ended up having 8 assists.  Duke has had a way of turning up their offense for spurts all season long.  Quite simply, they are capable of staging major comebacks in just a few minutes or when the game looks to be in doubt.

Not to take anything away, but ...

The Blue Devils still need to find some consistency in many areas of the game.  Firstly, they need to protect leads they build in the first half or leads in general.  Duke also needs some work on their free throw game.   They got away with going 10 of 21 from the charity stripe last evening and left a lot of points with misses of late.  Then there is the need for a consistent effort and better shot selection not to mention a better understanding of man to man defense.  Duke is young and learning.  Once they take better shot and gain a killer instinct with the lead, they will be hard to beat.  Just a little bit of improvement in the aforementioned areas could pay huge dividends.

A different role from Bagley

Well of course Marvin Bagley III got his 15 double-double on the season.  And he tallied 13 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists by deferring to other Duke players at times.  Last evening three other Duke players had more shots than Bagley.  The talented freshman took another step in his development by allowing this to happen which translated to a win.  And if Duke wins, Bagley will still remain the center of attention for many.

Wendell Carter went beast mode

When teammate Marvin Bagley went to the locker room with a shoulder injury, Carter played outstanding basketball.  He was a machine on the boards where many of his game high 14 rebounds came early or in key times in the game.  Carter is a double-double guy as well and he has pout together back to back games with the not so easy feat.  Duke would be well served to make sure he continues to get touches moving forward for he is better when that happens as is the team.  What people might miss is there is a timed development with players from the staff.  They told Carter he would float outside for some shots to better that part of his game when recruiting him.  They are keeping their promise.  BTW, Carter has an insane stat line - 15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 3 assists and 2 steals.

Allen continues to struggle with his shot

Sometimes players get in a shooting funk.  That has been the case with all of the Duke backcourt players at times this season.  It is scary to think how good Duke can be if all three are hitting on the same night.  What Allen is doing is finding his way into the stat line and remaining the senior leader a team needs.  Last evening he led Duke is steals with 5 and his effort towards the end of the half to get one and assist Trent for a 3 halted Miami's momentum.

That zone

I know there is a part of Mike Krzyzewski that hates going to a zone.  But in the one and done era with limited teaching time with players, not to mention a top-heavy team with concern to minutes: it is necessary.  And when Duke does go to that zone it seems to have a great effect to date.  When they went to it last evening, the Hurricanes offense immediately struggled with the length and movement.

Bad Duval, good Duval

Trevon Duval got into some early foul trouble and had to sit.  He needs to learn to harness his aggression in that Duke needs him on the court.  He is the best option at his position hands down.  I thought he was on his way to 8 turnovers like he had against NC State, but he flipped the switch and halted that.  Instead of 8 turnovers he ended the game with 8 assists.  And he was very efficient from the field going 7 of 11 and 2 of 2 from 3.   There is no position like the point guard spot which makes mistakes stand out.  Duval was good down the stretch and was a part of Duke not committing turnovers after a season high 19 during their 30-9 run to close out the game.

This and that

Duke has now had players garner 25 double-doubles on the season.  Bagley is 2nd in the nation in double-doubles and 1st among freshmen players.  Trent tied a Duke freshman record with six made three pointers.  Coach K is now 1014-273 at Duke and has 1087 total wins.

Next up

Pitt will visit Cameron Indoor Stadium on Coach K Court this coming Saturday.  That game will tip-off at 4:00 on  ACC Network Extra.  Duke should get both rest and good practice time this week.  They should also be able to let injured players continue to mend against Pitt which s struggling while rebuilding their program.

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