The Duke Blue Devils are clearly not the team that they will be a week, a month or 3 months from now and it is definitely showing on the court. The Devils had a half of struggle in it’s first exhibition of the season against Bellarmine before blowing the Knights out and in exhibition number 2Â Shaw would not go away losing eventually to the DevilsÂ Â 80-66, a score you would expect from Duke playing an N.C. State or UVA.
Some of Dukes struggles were of their own making. The defense has to improve, team defense is a staple of a Coach K team, and there were plenty of lapses in this game. Duke had some issues containing the speed of Shaw in this game, and while not a name that most know they are the defending CIAA champs and have some experienced guards who were able to break down Duke off the dribble. Duke allowed 4 players to score in double figures, something that barely happens even in ACC games.
There was plenty to also like in this match-up, we have to give the coaching staff credit for making these exhibitions count by scheduling teams that have a winning mentality and are used to, and know how to win. Certainly Duke could waste the opportunity and just schedule anyone, but K expects this team to struggle at times, he’s only going to find out areas of concern by exposing them, these games, no matter how ugly they can be at times will serve the Devils later in the season and possibly the tournament.
Austin Rivers was one who showed up on both end of the floor, the coaches have obviously tapped into what makes him tick, challenging him to be a complete player, his offense will always be there. If he can make a name on the defensive end as well, then his ceiling is high. When you look at top tier players in the league, names like Kobe, Jordan and others, they are not afraid to make defense a top priority. A steal or a stop is just as important as a dunk or a 3, and if they can keep young Rivers in that mindset, he is going to advance quickly. Rivers had 12 points in the game, and should have had more as he struggled at the free throw line. That is just going to happen from time to time. He did play 30 minutes, and only had 1 turnover. That above all numbers is what I like to see, he has been prone to that and if he keeps those numbers low then it means he is maximizing his attempts and touches and valuing the ball.
Ryan Kelly continues to shine, he was the high scorer in the game with 15 points to go along with his 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. You come to expect a stat line like that from Kelly because of his nose for the ball, decision making and willing to get in the middle and scrap.
Andre Dawkins in this game had a monster first half with 4 three pointers. I guess the issue with Dawk is do you start him or use him as a spark. He isn’t a defensive stopper despite making strides on that area from last year. It’s going to be interesting to see how Duke uses him and how that will affect his play. There is a certain confidence that goes along with being a starter and I’m not 100% convinced that he’s an “every down back” to coin a football phrase. It’s early but you can see that there is a lot to learn but there is also a lot already there.
The Plumlees came to play and Mason chipped in 14pts with 8 rebounds. Miles didn’t have as much luck going only 4-10 and no trips to the free throw line for 8 points. The bigs are going to have to really shoulder a much bigger load this year in terms of production in order for this team to be successful. Duke has the pieces to accomplish this, albeit by committee.
Guard play was up and down with Seth Curry having a much better second half than first, but he did have 12 points, 5 assists and 2 turnovers. Quinn Cook did not score but had 3 assists to 1 turnover in the game and seemed to disappear a bit, not uncommon with freshmen.
An area where Duke did struggle was at the line, it’s one thing for Rivers to go 2-6, but as a team the Devils were 11 of 24, that is just yucky. TheyÂ made the same amount from the line as Shaw with ten extra attempts. That’s how you take an advantage and nearly turn it into a deficit. That would account for some of the scores closeness, along with going 1-9 in the second half from 3pt range after lighting it up in the first half (6-12).
Seems there will be lots to talk about in the coming days and lots to build on and work on for the Devils. It’s going to make this year an up and down one, but a fun one. It may not be for the faint of heart, but with a young team patience is key…more to come.