Game Notes (2019/2020)
Duke 77, Virginia Tech 63 (December 6, 2019). Wow. We are not even sure where to begin. Duke won this road game, always difficult to do at Blacksburg, by essentially jettisoning most of their starting lineup. Who could ever have predicted this script?
The Hokies started this one absolutely on fire. Everything they were tossing up was going in. Conversely, all of Duke's shots seemed to bounce around the hoop and fall away. It was fortunate that the Hokies were not up by more than 11 or so. What's more, as has been the case all too often of late, Duke's defense did nothing to stop their opponents from getting shots in close. Tech's defense through the first half was simply much better. Even so, Duke finally started making some shots and did manage to narrow the gap to three at the break.
The second half again started with a Tech spurt, at which point K called a Come To Jesus timeout. He put in a smaller lineup that could actually put up some defensive resistance, and that resulted in a spate of Tech turnovers and misses on very contested shots. Duke was actually playing very tough defense for the first time in ages. And Duke turned the tables by making a number of shots on its own under the hoop. Miraculously, Duke built up an 18 point spread with about five minutes left, all with Vernon, Cassius and Matthew mired on the bench. Amazing.
It is interesting to look at the final team stats. Given the big second half spread, one would expect a much higher shooting percentage for Duke or a significant rebounding margin. In fact, neither was the case. The teams were fairly even. The stripe was an advantage for Duke -- even though the Devils committed more fouls overall, the Hokies committed more shooting fouls. Duke had 10 attempts at the line and miraculously made them all. That makes us very happy indeed. But the real differential was in the turnovers, and that is really what was decisive. Duke had only 7 miscues, whereas the Hokies had 14. And it was all due to that second half defensive intensity.
Tre was less than impressive through the first half, but really stepped up down the stretch on both ends. He led the team in scoring with 15, although this was probably Duke's most balanced effort of the season. Interestingly, Tre also shared the lead for rebounding at six ... tying, of all people, Jordan!
And speaking of Jordan, the kid got a ton of Pt and acquitted himself well. If you had read our last game report, you will remember that we lambasted Jordan for attempting a trey. Well, against the Hokies, Jordan actually made two treys!!!! Gee whiz, that probably elevated his career three point shooting to about 10%. Of course, he missed another three long attempts against the Hokies, the final one an air ball, so we absolutely stand by what we have always said in the past. Nevertheless his fortuitous makes and his strong play on the other end were big against Tech.
Joey Baker, who had been huge of late, played hard but had nothing much to show. The shots were not falling, and he finished 0 for 4 from the floor. His only two points came at the line. Still, it was indicative that K had him on the court a fair amount of time down the stretch, whereas Matthew was not to be seen.
Wendell had a completely unproductive first half, and missed an easy lay-in early in the second. But he thereafter scored in close from an in-bounds pass and went on to add a few more hoops ... all underneath except for a short fall-away jumper that unintentionally hit glass and bounced in. Better to be lucky than good. The really good news, however, is that he was not forcing anything, and was one of the defensive stalwarts down the stretch.
Maybe the best news from our standpoint was the late effort by Poor Alex. He started the game in his new normal fashion -- by missing every jumper he attempted. Then a miracle occurred during Duke's late second half run .... Alex nailed a trey from the side ... then, on Duke's following possession, he swished another shot inside the line. It was as if the dam had finally broken. Whether this portends good going forward, however, is impossible to say. But given the kid's great athleticism, it would be a godsend for the Devils if Alex could at least in part reclaim his once golden shot.
We had mentioned that Wendell and Matthew spent most of the second half on the bench. So did Cassius Stanley, who came back from his injury to start the game. Contrary to what we have come to expect, Wendell did virtually nothing in this one to win the game for Duke. Instead, he missed a number of shots in close, and allowed repeated defensive drives and scores. It should have been Vernon's night to shine given his big height advantage, but shine he certainly didn't.
Matthew did sink a couple of treys in the first half, but he was strictly MIA after the break. The final death knell was his pass across court that sailed about 15 feet too high. Regardless, K obviously felt that Matthew's defense was a liability for the team, and Duke's comeback suggested that K was probably correct.
What was really interesting is that Javin was also MIA after the break. Javin did play respectably in the first half, making a couple of inside shots. However, K rightly decided that Jack was the better defensive option for the team, so Jack was the guy on the floor when Duke turned the game around. It was all quite extraordinary.
One final note, When Duke built its sizable spread with about five minutes left, we would have expected Tech to ramp up the defensive intensity. In fact, the Hokies did just the opposite. They did not press at all down court and really just dropped back on defense. It was as if they had simply given up. It was rather shocking.
So there it goes. Winning at Blacksburg has been difficult for Duke, and Duke's early play did not auger well in this one. We are therefore ecstatic by what finally transpired. We are just shaking our heads about the way it happened.
Duke 87, Michigan State 75 (December 3, 2019). Who saw this coming? We didn't. Not that we thought Duke had no shot, but we never expected the Spartans to be effectively blown out on their home floor against this Duke team.. Just shows that State's less than impressive early record is no fluke … this is not your grandmother's Michigan State team.
Duke did benefit from a bunch of early State miscues to jump to an immediate lead it never relinquished. Duke also came up with an extraordinary number of blocks (11). And those blocks were distributed well. We have no doubt that the post-game commentary will celebrate the Duke defense. Oddly enough, we don't. Not that the defense was terrible, but State was still getting tons of scores off layups. We also thought that Duke again did a very poor job switching … ball movement by State would almost invariably find the ball guarded by two defenders with a Spartan wide open. And Michigan State was not nearly as dominant on the boards as they typically are … Duke actually out-rebounded them, albeit not by much. No, we think the real difference is that State is just not very good.
Despite all the early talk by the announcers of Spartan turnovers, the final stats show that Duke once again lost the overall turnover battle. That is very disturbing. The good news is that Duke otherwise was unusually efficient on offense. They were 56% overall from the field, almost 47% from three, and over 72% from the line. That is remarkably good for this team against a quality opponent.
As is normal, Vernon put up the big numbers. Twenty-six points and 11 boards in only 25 minutes. Michigan State could not stop him, particularly with the zebras whistling virtually all contact. At the line, he was 9 for 12. True to form, his performance there was much better in the first half when he was fresh, but we'll take those overall numbers from him any time.. He really played a good game.
Tre got his normal 40 minutes and gave the team 12 assists and 20 points. Unfortunately, he also continued his recent trend of coughing up the ball as well, this time turning it over 6 times. Still, it was a tough, gutsy performance by the kid who is truly the heart of this team.
Matthew had a second consecutive commendable performance. In 27 minutes, he had 10 points and 3 blocks. Only 2 rebounds, but that is to be expected for a kid with his frame. What we really liked was the fact that he was not trying to force drives, something that has been an issue with him. He only took 8 shots; 3 of those were from long and he made 2 of them. This is about as much as we can hope to see from Matthew in a big game, so it was good.
But let's stop once again to cheer the efforts of the Boy Wonder, Joey Baker. What a blessing he has become to this squad. It took a while for K to get him inserted, but he almost immediately made his impact felt. He wound up with 17 minutes and finished 5 for 6 from the floor. The first 5 went in (though one was an uncalled banker from the top of the key). This is the only kid on the squad whom we actually expect to sink a jumper. Given the fact that he did not commit a single turnover in the game, his play screams for even more minutes. Of course, we cannot expect him to remain as torrid as he is now, but the team desperately needs the outside threat he provides.
Once again, Wendell started. Once again, it was utter futility. Zero points, one board and three fouls in 10 minutes. There is no way to justify a starting role here.
As we expected, Jack was in the opening lineup with Cassius gone. It was the typical journeyman Jack White performance. In his 31 minutes, he only put up 7 points, but he did collect 6 rebounds and had a couple of blocks. On the downside, he lost a couple of boards (his hands are not the quickest) and he committed 3 turnovers.
OK, everyone, hold onto your hats because we are about to do something truly remarkable. We are actually going to salute Mr. DeLaurier. As our readers should be well aware, we have always been less than enamored of Javin's court abilities. But against State, he played one of his best games. He scored 10 points, all on layups or jams, but nevertheless it was 5 for 5. He also got a couple of steals and had 6 boards. And amazingly enough, he only had one foul. It was as well as he is capable of playing, and the really good news is that he did not try to force anything on offense.
Jordan also got a ton of minutes (24). Not much to show on the stat sheet other than the 3 boards, but at least no turnovers. Of course, he missed his only two jumpers. As we have noted in prior years, a savvy coach would look Jordan squarely in the eye and tell him that if he ever attempted a jump shot, he would immediately be on the bench. Bobby Knight would have done that; of course, K never will.
And that brings us to Poor Alex. Once again, missing his only shot attempt and once again, languishing on the bench. As we have said, he has effectively shot himself out of the rotation.
Now on to Virginia Tech, always a tough game away for Duke. Then a very extended easy stretch until the middle of January , when Duke plays Louisville at home. We know how dangerous it is to look ahead, but with this schedule it is hard not to.
Duke 83, Winthrop 70 (November 29, 2019). Another trip down memory lane … watching opponents drive repeatedly past Duke defenders into the lane, either scoring or dishing and scoring underneath. We hate memory lane.
For the second game in a row, Duke's foe was playing much better defense. What Duke was allowing was, forgive the pun, indefensible. We were not at the point of clamoring for a zone switch, particularly given Winthrop's ability to hit threes, but we were not happy campers. We don't have the stats to see how many of Winthrop's makes were under the basket, but we are sure the percentage was huge. And of course, Duke came out unable to hit jumpers at first.
But two rather unlikely heroes saved the bacon for the Devils. Matthew Hurt, who had previously struggled mightily in tough games, made some big first half shots to lead Duke on the offensive end. He remains highly problematical when he tries to drive against defenders, usually flailing awkwardly at the hoop and giving up the ball. Even so, he was able to make some really big shots for the team. And despite his thin frame, he was also able to pull down 8 boards against his shorter opponents. That is very good. It doesn't convince us that he will be a major weapon against the likes of Michigan State, but it is a good start.
And then there's Joey Baker. All we can say is, Thank God for Joey! He was amazing on the offensive end, going 6 for 7 from the floor and 4 for 5 from long. We love efficiency, and that was efficiency personified. To say that Joey is the best shot on this squad is an understatement. His form is so perfect and his shot so sweet that it is rare to see even the net move as the ball goes through. After his no-show against Kansas, we were sure that we wouldn't be seeing much of him in big games. But necessity changed all that, and Joey is making the very best of his opportunity.
Yes, we do have to acknowledge that Joey's athleticism is very limited (which is also true to a lesser extent of Matthew). His hand and foot quickness leaves a fair amount to be desired, and he is a threat solely as a set shooter. But his quick release and accuracy makes that a very significant threat. On defense, he is much more problematical, though he did the best he could against the Eagles. Anyway, it was a great night for the kid. He was the difference for Duke, and we are so happy for him.
Vernon had another double-double game, but we found it much less impressive. He made some defensive miscues, often foolishly gambling and allowing a lane to the hoop, and was not blocking off the defensive glass. On the other end, many of his shots in close were simply not dropping. As a result, his field goal percentage dropped from its usual lofty peak to 50%. Not bad, but not great either when all of the shots are within a few feet and the opponents are smaller. At least the free throw shooting was better … 7 for 10. But we still saw a lack of consistency in the motion before releasing the shot, something that should never happen. That's a coaching issue as well.
Tre had another up and down game. He was somewhat better on offense, going 6 for 12. But he seemed to tighten up in the second half, leaving some open jumpers short. And he again committed an untoward number of turnovers … 5 against just 6 assists. That's not what we expect from this kid. And it is part of a larger problem for the team, which again committed more turnovers than their opponents. 22 turnovers against Austin, and now 16 against Winthrop. Very bad.
We are all concerned about Cassius Stanley. He did not play well at all in the first half, then suffered an undetermined injury early in the second period. It was really quite bizarre. Stanley was heading downcourt for an uncontested shot. Everyone expected a monster jam, but Cassius instead tossed it awkwardly off the glass and missed everything. He then went down and did not come back up. Did the injury occur before the leap up, leading to that horrible shot, or was it the result of his landing? We have no idea, but we have little doubt that it will be yet another Duke leg injury that will result in a very long-term recovery process. That is major because Duke has virtually no offensive firepower at the guard position.
Speaking of no offensive firepower, Alex made his usual brief first half appearance and promptly missed an open jumper. The poor kid could not make a jump shot to save his life. If you stationed him three feet from the basket and had all defenders go to the bench, he would miss the shot. How the mighty have fallen. Even so, we would still lobby for more PT due to his athleticism if he could only shake that perilous habit of taking his eyes off the player he is trying to defend.
Once again, Wendell started. Once again, there was little good to show for it. Against Winthrop, he played 19 minutes, and in all that time gave his team 0 points, 1 board, and 2 turnovers. At least early on we were congratulating him for not trying to force things as usual … that is until he went charging into the lane and barreled into an opponent. It was dreadful. If Cassius were healthy, Wendell should be out of the starting lineup, but we expect to see him there under the circumstances.
Given Vernon's periodic defensive lapses, Javin got more minutes than usual. We have bitten our lips all season to be polite and less than forthcoming about his play. In this one, it was pretty much more of the same, though he did make his only two lay-up attempts.
Interestingly, Jack only got 8 minutes. He too was pretty much as usual, giving Duke nothing on offense, but some grittiness on the other end. Those halcyon days at the beginning of last season are long gone.
That brings us to Jordan. We all know that he has absolutely no offensive skills. But he was a difference maker on defense. His big steals in the second half led to a nice Duke spurt that put the game away. He had 5 steals in all. Those were big for Duke.
One final word about our esteemed coach, Once Duke built its first 11 point lead in the second half, El Greco! saw fit to populate the court with this lineup: Javin, Jack, Wendell, Alex, and Jordan. Notice anything there, folks? That's right ... none of these kids are capable of making a jump shot. That lineup was simply insane. And it naturally led to a comeback by the Eagles until Duke put in some personnel to stem the one-sided flow. It was just beyond stupid.
And now … on to the Spartans. This is not a great Michigan State team, but they will be tough. We'll see how the Duke freshman can react to the size and physicality of this opponent.
Stephen F. Austin 85, Duke 83 (November 26, 2019). The first home non-conference loss since 2000. Yes, Stephen F. has been a tough program over the last half decade, but this should never have happened. The Lumberjacks were simply quicker, stronger and tougher. They were making shots with contact underneath. That is something that this Duke squad simply does not do.
So, who out there would have predicted this result when Duke was up by 15 with eight and a half minutes left in the first half? We don't see any hands raised. Not surprising, because we certainly did not anticipate what was to transpire.
Duke's problem was threefold. First, they couldn't handle the defensive pressure. One can talk all day about Duke's defense, but the defense of the Lumberjacks was better. The Devils had 22 turnovers (14 for their opponents). Twice in overtime Duke could not even get a shot off within the requisite time. On the other end, Austin was able all evening to drive inside and either make a tough shot or pass off to an open teammate. Duke would have been better off in a zone (assuming this squad has even been properly trained in zone play), but that was not an adjustment K was able to bring himself to make.
Duke was also continually out-hustled down the court. Off a Duke turnover, the Lumberjacks were on multiple occasions down court to score before Duke could regather.
And then there was the foul shooting. While Duke was unusually effective at the stripe in the first half, they were abysmal after the break. The worst culprit? Mr. Carey, of course. By our count, he was 2 for 9 at the line in the second half. We thought it would be just a matter of time before his free throw shooting would lead to disaster. We just didn't think it would occur this evening.
In fairness to Vernon, his play otherwise was strong. He had 20 points on 8 for 10 shooting, 11 boards, and an incredible 7 blocks. That is terrific, though it still does not excuse what he did at the line. He has no regular rhythm there, and we have to assign some blame to the coaching staff as well. It has been our impression over the years that no one on the Duke staff really knows how to coach free throw shooting.
Cassius Stanley had some big plays for Duke. He had two of Duke's five treys, and added 4 blocked shots. He might well have won the game for Duke if he could make shots near the hoop with some contact. It is the rare freshman who can, and Cassius is not one of them. Oh, where have you gone, Zion?
Tre was credited with 12 assists and 4 steals. He also made two shots from long. But it still was not a good night for him. He was just 4 for 10 from the floor overall, and he had a host of turnovers. He had 8 in all, and was extremely lucky not to have had one more after a bad pass of his luckily ricocheted to a Duke player. The defensive pressure of the Lumberjacks was giving him fits.
Wendell, the Second Coming according to Dan Dakich, played a whopping 34 minutes, third on the squad. His was not a bad performance; it was simply not particularly effective. He had 9 points, 3 boards, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers. He did not make a difference for Duke. The best thing we can offer is that at least he did not try to force things, and that is a blessing.
Matthew, who has not been competitive in big games, was also respectable. He played 22 minutes and scored 15 points -- 5 for 10 from the floor and 4 for 4 from the line. But his lack of strength and quickness still made itself manifest by what he couldn't do (two rebounds).
As usual, despite the alleged depth, Duke under K is always short-benched in big games. Only 6 players had more than 8 minutes for the Devils; in contrast, eight Lumberjacks had more than double digit minutes. That is quintessential K. Anyway, the only other Dukie with multiple minutes was Mr. White, and it was a typical performance from him: some toughness on the defensive end, but absolutely nothing on offense.
So, congrats to the Jacks. They deserved to win this one. It's not the end of the world for Duke, but it shows that they are more than capable of losing to any respectable team.
Duke 81, Georgetown 73 (November 22, 2019). This one was really ugly. For much of the first half, it appeared that Duke was about to be toppled from its lofty peak. The Hoyas were quick and athletic, and Duke's already iffy offense was absolutely stymied. The only thing keeping Duke in the game was its stalwart defense, which resulted in the usual plethora of opponent turnovers. Unfortunately, Georgetown's own defensive talents were doing the same on the other end.
At this point, we need to stop this broadcast for an important zebra alert. The refs in this game, Brian Dorsey and his two partners in crime, were simply an obscenity. A total of 51 fouls were called. The game was stopped constantly for one whistle or another. The only good news is that Duke was as often the beneficiary of a gift as not. Even so, this kind of thing is an abomination and ruins the game.
Anyway, this contest followed the usual pattern for Duke. Terrible struggles early, then one or two guys finally hit shots and things turn around. The offensive benefactors for the Devil were three: Vernon Carey, Cassius Stanley, and our prior whipping boy, Wendell Moore.
Let's start with Mr. Moore. This was by far his best performance. By Far. He played a whopping 36 minutes (second only to Tre's 39) and scored 17 points. Those were huge as Duke built up its lead to 14 in the second half. While one of his field goals was a three, that is not his forte as we know. Rather, he is a slasher, and this game afforded him the opportunity to do just that. The aggressive man defense of the Hoyas allowed him to drive past a defender with a lane to the hoop. That is something he simply cannot do against the zone defenses Duke had been facing. The bad news is that he still had a large number of turnovers … seven in all. Still, we were delighted by what he gave the team.
Vernon had another strong outing, although Georgetown's strength frustrated him more than Cal was able to. Carey finished with 20 points on a solid 8 for 14 from the floor. He also added 10 boards once again. There was, however, one problem, and it was a big one. After commending him for his effort at the foul line against Cal, we need to rip him a new one for his free throw shooting in this game. He was simply awful … 4 for 10 from the stripe. Duke went into its typical slowdown in the last several minutes, and Carey's foul shooting ineptitude helped a once sizeable lead shrink to four. This could be a major issue going forward.
Finally, Mr. Stanley. Having watched Cassius now for a half dozen games, we have come to realize that he does have some ball-handling issues -- any extensive dribbling will typically result in a turnover. On the other hand, his great athleticism and his soft shooting touch have been a boon to the team. That athleticism translates into his ability to get big rebounds; against the Hoyas, it was 8 boards, second on the team. And Cassius is one of the few kids on the squad who can actually make a jump shot; indeed, after Joey, he is probably Duke's best marksman at this point. Blessedly, he was 3 for 3 from long against the Hoyas. Every time Georgetown started to come back in the second half, it seemed Cassius would nail one. And the kid was 6 for 7 at the line to boot. He was money.
Speaking of Joey, he did get 10 minutes, even though the Hoya defense was not ideal for his game. He was able to sink an open three from the side, however, and added another hoop as well. For what it was, it was all good.
Tre really struggled offensively. He was not making shots against Cal, and this was even worse. He finished 3 for 13 overall, and was 0 for 2 from long. The Hoya defense also pressured him into an unusual number of turnovers (4). Not pretty at all, but the saving grace on offense was his performance at the line -- 7 for 8, including key shots down the stretch.
After that, it was fairly ugly. Once again, Matthew Hurt, who started, demonstrated that he is simply not ready to compete at this level. He was completely overmatched on the court in the first half, and he did not even appear after intermission. He had a total of 5 minutes of PT. He may one day turn into a top line player, but we cannot see that happening soon. He can't score inside against the big guys, and his outside game has been erratic to say the least.
We know how weak Duke was from the outside last season. This year, Matthew was supposed to be one of the prime reasons that would turn around. More PT for Alex would presumably be another. Well, neither has materialized. Alex got all of 4 minutes in this one, despite the fact that his athleticism might have helped against the Hoyas. The problem is that he is missing everything he is throwing up, and K has no confidence now in his offensive game. How someone can morph from a great shooter to a terrible shooter is indeed a mystery. As we noted previously, the Duke staff should be poring through old film to see what has changed with his jumper.
With Matthew's struggles, Jack got an amazing 33 minutes. He played with his usual toughness, but his limitations were also quite evident. He is an offensive liability. He is prone to turning the ball over if he tries to dribble, and his shot is virtually nonexistent. For all those minutes, he was only able to contribute 5 points on 1 for 3 shooting from the floor. He also had but 3 boards. The big moment of the evening was the moment where he leapt beyond the baseline to throw the ball off a defender; however, even there, the replay showed that the refs blew the call in Duke's favor.
Lastly, Javin. We have been very diplomatic thus far this season in talking about Javin's game. The sad truth is that he really is not any kind of a defensive stopper, and is a major liability on the offensive end. He played 13 minutes against Georgetown, and it was more of the same … zero points and five fouls. If Vernon is injured (or fouls out because he continues to commit stupid fouls), Duke is in a world of trouble.
Duke 87, California 52 (November 21, 2019). Interesting game. Duke was, as usual, superb on the defensive end. We also love how this team goes to the defensive boards, unusual for a K squad. But the problem, at least initially, was once again on offense. Duke came out of the gate missing everything, and after eight minutes of play they had scored around six points. The fact that they wound up with 87 was nothing short of a miracle.
This was Vernon Carey's night. He is by far the most impressive of the freshman, which is what Duke needed this season given their weakness inside. We do applaud K for the way he is just putting Javin in for a brief spurt here and there to get Vernon necessary breathers. Javin did wind up with 18 minutes, but that was only because the game had been broken wide open and the garbage time was extensive.
Vernon wound up with 31 points on 11 for 18 shooting. He was also, blessedly, 8 for 9 from the line. We have been justifiably critical of Vernon's performance at the stripe to date, but we have observed that when he actually takes his time and concentrates, he does well. He needs to develop a routine at the line that involves timing and concentration, something that is incumbent upon the coaching staff to instill.
Anyway, we also love the fact that Vernon can score through contact, which none of his teammates is capable of doing. And on the other end, his footwork and athleticism have been much better than expected. We are really high on this kid. He just needs to play very smart and avoid reaching fouls at all costs.
After an incredible offensive outing in the last game, Tre was quiet on that end. The good news is that he was able to pop a couple of threes. He was 2 for 5 from long, a 40% rate that we would be ecstatic to see continue. And the rest of his game was almost flawless. Seven assists and no turnovers, although he could have been charged with one late in the game had the scorer chosen to.
As we expected, Alex did not start. He has simply shot his way out of a job. And the woes continued in this one. He missed every jumper he attempted, finishing 1 for 6 from the floor. The one shot he made was a spectacular driving stuff. It is such a tragedy because he could be a godsend to this team if he could make shots.
Cassius had a very quiet night. He had one great leaping rebound and was able to sink two treys. That's about it. Unfortunately, like most of his compatriots, he can't score through contact. But at least he was able to go to the line and make shots there (5 for 6).
Actually, Duke had probably its best game at the stripe, shooting 23 for 31 (74%). But we do have to qualify that by noting that two of the misses were the front ends of one and ones. The big miscreant there was Mr. Moore. He missed two consecutive front ends, and his next foul shot as well. We listened to Dan Dakich gush like a school girl about Wendell all evening. Much as we do like Dakich, we think he has gone way overboard.
Wendell did start this game, but was again problematical on the offensive end. He did sink one trey, but was 3 for 7 from the floor overall. He also exhibited that selfishness that we have been less than happy about. At one point in the first half, he was bringing the ball up court and Tre was wide open on the wing and waving for the ball. But instead of passing it to him, Wendell decided to force a drive that was not there. He did get a foul call, but proceeded to miss the foul shot attempt. Perhaps even worse was the shot he launched late in the game from about 30 feet. It had no chance of making, and K, to his great credit, immediately pulled Wendell from the game. The good news? Wendell was tough under the defensive glass and grabbed 7 boards.
Matthew remains an issue. For the bulk of this game, he was utterly ineffective. He finally scored three hoops over about a two minute span during garbage time late in the game. But his final stats were very telling: he had his nine points, but in 18 minutes had only 2 boards, no assists, and a couple of turnovers. Not good at all. The fact is that Jack is generally more of a difference maker … not good on the offensive end, but tougher under the boards on defense.
One final observation. Duke is, understandably, seeing a lot of zone defensive coverage, and will no doubt continue to do so. Joey is therefore getting more of a chance to play than we had expected, although these are not tight contests. Still, he was 2 for 3 from beyond the arc in this one. He is far and away Duke's best marksman. Too bad he can't create shots as well.
Duke 74, Georgia State 63 (November 15, 2019). Before we discuss this one, mention needs to be made of the embarrassment that is the ACC Network. First, it was women's soccer that preempted Duke basketball; last evening, it was an obscure girls volleyball match. How truly pathetic is that (except for all of you whose main goal in life is to "empower" women)? The ACC Network is indeed wonderful … that is, for all who can't get their fill of field hockey. Thank the Lord for the Watch ESPN app.
On to Duke basketball, though today we would almost prefer to avoid the subject. OK, how many of you were buoyed by Duke's marksmanship against the hapless Central Arkansas Bears? We admit that it was gratifying. But it was also an illusion. Duke is just not that good offensively. They may be better that they showed last evening. But they are still not very good. It is something we were afraid of from the beginning as our posts show.
While Duke won this one by double figures, the first half was an even contest. It was not until the start of the second period that Duke was able to get any space. The Panthers went cold, Duke grabbed the boards, and Tre Jones started scoring at will. The lead was built to over ten, and Duke never really looked back. The initial trouble was twofold: Duke could not hit jumpers once again, and the team had difficulty coping with the quickness of their opponents. We have said it before and will probably say it many times again: quickness in basketball is the single most undervalued attribute.
Despite the margin of victory, looking at the offensive stats leaves one wondering how the Devils managed to pull this out. The Panthers were almost 42% from three, Duke a pathetic 25%. The Panthers were almost 73% from the line, Duke a miserable 58% plus. Overall, the Panthers outshot Duke, almost 42% to 34%. And the turnovers were even at 17. So what was the difference? Actually, the difference was twofold.
First, Duke won the battle of the boards, 58 to 32, a huge spread. The Panthers simply did not have the height to compete. Add a few inches here and there and this probably would have been another upset.
The second actually ties into the first. The Panthers were forced to foul, and Duke took 29 shots at the line to only 11 for their opponents. The bad news is that Duke missed so many. The Devils were listed as hitting 17 of 29. In fact, at least three of those misses were the front end of one and ones (all by Tre Jones). So Duke left 15 points on the cutting room floor by virtue of its ineptitude at the line. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a serious problem … just as it was last season. And there is no excuse for it.
As to player performance, there are but two kids worthy of commendation overall. Above all, Tre was a marvel. Yes, there were the missed free throws and an unusually high 4 turnovers, but everything else was marvelous. Not only did he play his usual tough D, but he was an offensive machine. He scored an unbelievable 31 points, and that even included 4 treys (4 for 8). He willed Duke to victory on offense. The truth is we will probably not see this level of shooting again from Tre, so his compatriots will somehow have to pick up the slack.
The other worthy Dukie was Vernon. We love his good hands, his athleticism, and his ability to make shots. In this one, he scored 20 points and had a whopping 14 boards. We were also very gratified that he was able to play 34 minutes … his conditioning had been a real concern to us. It is essential that Vernon remain on the court since the drop-off in his absence is so dramatic. Javin picked up his normal 4 fouls in just a few minutes of play and contributed one point.
The only other notable offensive performer was none other than Joey Baker. Duke was so utterly ineffectual from long against the Panthers that K felt obliged to insert Joey as early as the opening period. While we recognize Joey's limitations, we do applaud the decision. And Mr. Baker did give the team a needed boost in the second half by hitting two treys. Besides Tre Jones, the only other successful three point shooter was Cassius … on a shot late in the second half. Not only were Duke's shots missing, but they were missing by a lot … both Cassius and Matthew gave us air balls. So anyway, we applaud Joey, even though his lack of quickness made him a defensive liability. The team was more in need of offense at that point.
Speaking of Cassius, he was fine on the defensive end and added 9 boards. However, his offensive performance was miserable. He started the game by missing two free throws, and went on to go 2 for 12 from the field. So much for Mr. Efficient.
Alex started once again, but continued his terrible shooting from the floor. He was 0 for 3 in this one. The team desperately needs a marksman, but he is no longer the answer. We can't help wondering what happened to this kid … is it an effect of Duke's weight program, is it simple mechanics (something the Duke staff should be investigating by scouring old tapes), or is it just mental? In any event, Alex has probably now shot his way out of a starting role. Indeed, Jack started the second half of this game. It is sad indeed.
After being benched at the start of the last contest, Matthew was once more in the starting lineup. But he too may have played himself out of that role. Against tougher opponents, Matthew has not been an effective performer. In this one, he was just 2 for 7 from the floor and 0 for 3 from long. It was terribly unimpressive. Given all the preseason hoopla, Matthew has been the biggest disappointment thus far. He is looking like anything but a one and done player.
Our readers will by now be familiar with the issues we have had with Wendell. His play was not selfish in this one, it was just unproductive. He did force one drive to lose the ball, and shot just 1 for 5 in 11 minutes. While he does have talent, he is not a top ten kid as the rankings suggested. But we are never fooled by rankings the way K seems to be.
And that brings us to Jack. His long range shooting continues to be abysmal and he contributes nothing on the offensive end (0 for 3). However, he adds a toughness on the other end and will fight for boards. He had a nice 10 rebounds in this one. We wish he could be a dual threat (like Alex, he was a better shooter coming into Duke), but we will take what we can get.
Duke 105, Central Arkansas 54 (November 12, 2019). Anyone with the misfortune of hearing Dan Bonner do commentary on this game would have heard him opine that Duke made Central Arkansas look like a bad team. No, Mr. Bonner, the Bears ARE a bad team. Duke was simply taking the ball away from them at will with their first half pressure defense, and the spread was around 40 points at the break. This was just a glorified exhibition game.
Of course, the fact that an opponent is very weak does not somehow deny that your team is strong. And Duke's defense, at least with Tre on the court, is excellent. Alas, Tre was involved in a head-on collision with about seven minutes or so in the first half, and as a precautionary measure never returned. That, together with the fact that Duke eased up on the defensive pressure in the second half, allowed the spread to stay at about the 50 mark.
There were a number of performances worthy of praise in this one, although that "weak opponent asterisk" always needs to be appended. Before the injury, Tre was shooting the ball unusually well ... 3 for 5 and all jumpers, including a triple. That is great to see. Oddly enough, however, no steals, although his presence contributed.
Alex started once again. He displayed his great athleticism on two drives. He also hit a couple of treys, but missed four others. We stand by our earlier comment that he is simply not the deadly shooter that he was when he matriculated at Duke. As a freshman, we expected his shots to hit; we now expect them to miss.
Vernon continues to wow us on offense. His shot is so soft and sweet, and he usually completes. Against the Bears, he scored 17 points and was 8 for 10 from the field. He also can be effective on the defensive end, though it is a matter of will. He has great upside ... if he can muster the requisite tenacity and defensive intelligence. The one really big disappointment thus far is his performance at the foul line. It was 1 for 2 against the Bears. He should be much better than he has shown to date.
Matthew did not start, presumably due to his lackluster outing against Colorado State. Well, he came into this one like a new man. He grabbed a tenacious board off the bat, and started nailing shots. He was 7 for 11 overall and a terrific 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, This is the shooter that we were hoping would materialize. Whether this can be repeated with any regularity remains to be seen.
Cassius continues to delight. His offensive efficiency has been remarkable. Five for five in this one. He is not only quick; he is silky smooth. He also contributed 3 blocks and 3 steals in his 24 minutes.
Even though he did not start, Wendell led the squad with 25 minutes. We said in our last game report that we were not ready to call him selfish, but we are inching closer. Even when he is effectively playing point, he is anything but a point guard since he is always focused on scoring himself. He certainly does have driving ability, but the fact that the lane is not there does not seem to deter him. Against The Bears he was 4 for 12 from the floor, easily the most inefficient player on the team. And those driving misses rarely lend themselves to Duke offensive rebounds. At this point, we are not fans of his game.
Jack started and played 18 minutes, but had very little to show for it. In contrast, our two least favorite performers, Javin and Jordan had very commendable outings (but remember that asterisk). Javin had 8 boards and 11 points in his 16 minutes, and only was guilty of one turnover. perhaps best of all, he was 3 for 3 at the line. Wow. Of course, he remained a foul magnet, picking up 4 in his brief court time. But we have to qualify that somewhat by noting that the zebras working this game were absolutely whistle happy. They were awful.
As for Jordan, it was 4 for 6 from the floor, 4 assists, and 3 steals. The scoring included ... take a deep breath everyone ... a trey. We don't know whether to be happy that he made the shot or angry that he took it. But it was a good night for him.
Lastly, Joey Baker again got extended action given the nature of the contest (or non-contest). It wasn't impressive once again, though certainly not terrible. He was 2 for 6 from the field, one of which was a three. He kind of held his own on the other end, but quickness really is an issue.
Duke 89, Colorado State 55 (November 8, 2019). We were surprised. K actually found the correct starting lineup. It was Carey, Jones, Stanley, Hurt, and O'Connell. Yes, Poor Alex was finally elevated from the doghouse. Nice to see. Let's hope his play continues to warrant.
Even with the right guys on the court, however, Duke really struggled out of the gate. Colorado State does not have a lot of talent, but they are well coached. Niko Medved did a fine job at Furman, and it looks as if he will do the same at his new post. The Rams are not abundantly talented, but they have good quickness and play tough defense. There really was not a stone's throw of difference in the score until late in the first half, when Duke finally rattled off ten straight to go into the break. Duke never looked back, and continually built the edge through the second half.
Once again, Duke's defense was solid. It is the offense that remains very troubling. Specifically, it is the inability to make long jumpers that raises a lot of red flags. Against the Rams, the team was just 4 for 22 from beyond the arc. Take Alex out of the equation and it becomes 1 for 19. That's awful. You can pound the ball inside against Colorado State, but it is a lot harder against the Big Boys. You can talk all you want about "the offense not rounding into shape yet," but it does not follow at all that an outside shooting touch will magically appear as the season progresses. All we can do is wait and see.
Another gritty performance from Tre, clearly the heart of this team. He still can't make a trey to save his life, but he is doing everything else. He is making jumpers off the dribble from within about 12 feet, is scoring off the drive, and picking up a bunch of assists (8 in this game). We know he has come back to show the NBA scouts that he can hit from long and is trying to do that by tossing up trey attempts whenever possible ... most unfortunate, because he is proving exactly the opposite. We wish he could just focus on his real game, which is wonderful by itself.
We continue to be captivated by Mr. Stanley. He led the team with 19 points on a very efficient 8 of 11 from the floor. The total included a long two as well. His stroke is very sweet. What's more, he also led the squad with 7 boards. The kid can do it all. So far, clearly the best of the frosh.
Like Cassius, Alex played 25 minutes and acquitted himself well. He made three of the team's four treys, and finished 5 for 9 from the field. He also showed his athleticism and quickness with a beautiful driving score early in the contest. Aside from Tre, he is also the best passer on the team. Indeed, he routinely does something that we rarely see Tre do ... drive and dish.
Vernon should have had a field day against the Rams, but wound up playing only 15 minutes. It is not his ability to make shots -- he was 5 for 5 from the floor. He completes remarkably well. The problem is really on the defensive side. Like so many young players, Vernon does not play smart D, all too often reaching and slapping. A bunch of stupid fouls in this one. It is fine to sit and talk about learning over time, but we have found that it is very hard for kids to disabuse themselves of this practice.
And now for a quick parenthetical. We had a piece during the off-season about the Kerry Blackshear sweepstakes. We were and are enamored of Mr. Blackshear, and could not figure out why it appears that Duke did not go all out to capture his services this season. Perhaps that would have violated certain understandings given to Vernon ... we don't know. But Kerry in a Duke uniform would have made all the difference for this team. Just saying ....
Anyway, back to the commentary. Not much to say about Messrs. White and DeLaurier, so we will bypass them. Jordan is back to 12 minutes, which we believe is more appropriate. That leaves Matt and Wendell.
Wendell was last in among the freshmen, but he did what he does best ... score off the drive. He went 5 for 6 from the floor, which was very nice. The problem continues to be turnovers ... 3 in this game. We had expected Wendell to be the most team oriented and most unselfish of the incoming players. While we are certainly not prepared at this point to call the kid selfish, he has probably been the most, shall we say, aggressive about seeking to score when he has the ball. The problem is that it has resulted in a lot of forced drives and miscues. No doubt he is trying to prove himself at this point. We only wish that he would perhaps not try so hard.
As for Matthew, let's just say that it was a quite underwhelming outing. Matthew has the rep of being a very capable scorer, but that is not something we saw in his high school all-star performances. Nor have we seen it against capable defenses thus far this season. His shooting has been very sketchy, and his lack of bulk and quickness have presented a problem inside. We truly hope that he can get it going, but we are beginning to have some real reservations.
One final note. That this game was, in K's mind, never in doubt is evinced by the fact that Joey Baker got in early and had 14 minutes. Didn't have a lot to show for it, but we are happy that Joey was at least able to get some court time.
Duke 68, Kansas 66 (November 5, 2019). When K made the dubious decision to put Jordan Goldwire in the starting lineup this season, we had to wonder if our illustrious coach was hoping to win scoreless games. Well, the irony is that is effectively what transpired last evening, though little thanks in that regard go to Mr. Goldwire.
It was truly ugly. Both teams seemed determined to lose the game on the offensive end. Kansas committed a shocking 28 turnovers. Much credit must go to the Duke defense, which performed admirably overall. But it was not all Duke's doing ... Kansas was just flat out bad. And on the other end, all of our worst fears were realized ... this Duke team shoots poorly. The squad was 8 for 24 from long, not good but not embarrassing. However, they were just 23 for 64 overall, less than 36%. As we warned, those easy inside scores against Division 2 foes were not going to be there against the Big Boys.
And to add insult to injury, Duke was just 14 for 23 at the foul line according to the official stats. According to our stats, it was 14 for 26 since two of the misses were the front ends of one and ones and there was an error in the official stats to boot (an O'Connell miss that was not recorded). That, ladies and gentlemen, amounts to 12 points left on the table. It would have sealed the team's doom had not Kansas been almost as futile at the line. We suppose the good news is that Duke was able to make free throws down the final stretch ... Alex, Cassius, and Tre all made theirs in the final minutes.
Anyway, neither team really deserved to win this one. But Duke did prevail. We have to admit that we were surprised since we expected a Kansas victory. We are therefore very happy, despite the pain of watching all the miscues. As Poindexter loves to point out, there are no good losses.
We mentioned Jordan. He did start, ostensibly for defensive purposes, but played only 13 minutes. Speaking of ironies, he committed perhaps the two greatest defensive lapses of the game, twice taking his eyes off his opponent and allowing easy back-door baskets. His stat line was essentially a series of zeros, the only aberration being a one in the missed shot total.
The other Dukie with surprisingly few minutes was Wendell. Of course, it was not that he deserved the minutes since his play was lacking. He was one for six from the floor with three personals and four turnovers in 12 minutes. Still, we felt at the beginning of the season that he was going to be this year's Man Love recipient from K, so we are surprised (but gratified) that El Greco! actually based minutes on performance. It doesn't always happen.
It does get better thereafter, though not by much. Vernon played 25 minutes and had some respectable (but certainly not impressive) totals. He was 3 for 8 from the floor, which included two from long. He added six boards and had a couple of blocks. Again, not outstanding, but not dreadful either. What we didn't like was his frequent disappearance from the scrum underneath the hoop. On one occasion, Kansas was having its will on the offensive boards and Vernon was nowhere to be seen ... we have to wonder if he had simply decided to run down court, though we did not have a full court view to tell. What the team really needs from Vernon this year is a presence underneath. The three point shots are nice, but they are secondary. The other problem we had with Vernon was his free throw shooting. Despite his ability to make outside shots, he was terrible at the stripe ... just 3 for 6 overall, and one of those a banker off the glass. His propensity is to toss it up too strong. That is a problem.
Matthew had three treys for the game, but otherwise contributed very little in his 24 minutes. He was just 4 for 12 overall and had only two boards. There were no assists and two turnovers. As we expected, that dominance inside that we saw in the exhibition contests disappeared. Indeed, he was the one being dominated inside. If he hopes to be effective in the NBA next season, he will have to become a lot stronger.
Poor Alex was again the last of the front line players to get in the game. But his play earned him a lot of minutes (25). As we have continually pointed out, he is terrifically athletic. He had 3 steals, 9 points and 2 assists to his credit. However, one big problem remains ... Alex was only 1 for 6 from long. As we have pointed out, Alex is not even remotely the accurate marksman that he was as an incoming freshman. A player is generally supposed to improve as a shooter as his career progresses, but that all too often seems not to be the case at Duke.
The player with the most minutes was, of course, Tre Jones. His defense was as gritty and effective as usual. His jump shot was as woeful as usual (0 for 4 from long). What we also didn't like were the three turnovers, resulting from his trying to force the ball inside with nowhere to go. Still, it was a tough effort, and he deserves a lot of kudos for shutting his opponent down. Looks like it will be the same Tre we saw last season.
Perhaps the brightest note of the night was Mr. Stanley. As we said before the season, he is the player that most intrigues us and perhaps offers the greatest upside. Other than his four turnovers, he had an outstanding game. He was five for six from the floor, including a beautiful driving score and a trey from the side. We have remarked how soft his shot seems to be, though he had not heretofore attempted treys. What also impressed us was his ability to complete with the game on the line. This kid is going to be really good.
The shooting star of the prior contest against Fort Valley State was Joey Baker. While the team could certainly have used some of those jumpers against Kansas, our warning that Joey was going to be a bench warmer was entirely accurate. His minutes against Kansas were essentially zero. K simply does not believe that he can guard people on the defensive end. Too bad.
Last but not least, Jack White. Frankly, Jack looked lost for the entire first half and into the second. It was the Jack White that we saw down the stretch last year. But magically, a phoenix rose from the ashes. In the closing minutes against Kansas, Jack was a mighty contributor. It was not so much on offense, though he did nail a trey (and had a second ring the hoop and go out). But he became a major force on the defensive end, picking up a couple of big steals and contributing on the boards. The stats will not wow, but we were certainly gratified. That is what we need from Jack.
And so it goes. Duke went to the Garden and managed to take care of business, though one would be more sanguine if he had missed the game and just heard the score. Now it is back to the friendly confines of Cameron and a few cream puffs before the schedule resumes in earnest.
Duke 126, Fort Valley State 57 (October 30, 2019). We read a lot over the past few days about how the wrong conclusions are being drawn about this Duke team because they played to an uncomfortably tight finish against Northwest Missouri State. But those admonitions really missed the entire point. We understood that their first opponent had talent. The problem was that the Devils won the game in a way they will not typically be able to win against major competition -- by being absolutely dominant inside, while missing virtually everything from long. We were very troubled by the fact that we were shown no ability whatsoever to hit from beyond the arc.
Well, fast forward to last evening's contest against the Fort Valley State Wildcats (where did they ever come up with that unusual nickname?). Duke continued to dominate inside, as any Division One team will do against such an opponent. However, the good news is that Duke finally unleashed a long range arsenal.
The Hero of the Revolution was no less than Joey Baker, effectively in the third string rotation. Baker went off against the Wildcats, nailing five treys out of six attempts in the first half. He added another for good measure after the break and finished with 22 points to lead the team. He was just scorching the nets.
Of course, with us, every piece of good news is tinged by a caveat. While it was great to watch Joey perform at that level, he is really not the kid that one would strategically want to see break out. While Joey is in no sense awkward on the court, he is not very athletic either. He is just not very quick afoot, which hampers him on the defensive end and in his ability to create on offense. As a result, when the schedule picks up, we just don't see him getting a lot of minutes to produce like that.
Anyone who has watched basketball for a long time should realize that group psychology is a big part of the game. Sure enough, when Joey started sinking treys, it seemed to take the lid off the basket. Poor Alex, who had gone 0 for his last umpteen, hit a couple from long, as did the normally ice cold Jack White. Matthew Hurt nailed one, and even Wendell was successful (albeit from the corner, where the line is closer). The downside is that Duke's back court, Tre and Jordan, continue to be ineffectual from the outside.
We must also remember that it is a lot easier to make threes against the likes of Fort Valley State than it will be against competition that is larger and much more capable defensively. This game may have been a nice confidence booster, but the truth is that much of that will be false confidence. The fact of the matter is that this game should never have been played, assuming the purpose of an exhibition game is to get the team prepared for the regular season. Fort Valley State is simply a dreadful squad. Duke was able to steal the ball at will against them, resulting in an embarrassing 26 turnovers. It was like taking candy from a baby.
We were interested to see Duke starting Tre, Vernon, Matthew, Cassius, and Jordan. The first three are no-brainers. And given K's focus on defense and his love for Jordan, that was not much of a surprise either. But we were a bit surprised to see Cassius in as the fifth starter since we expected K to have a fixation with Wendell. We were nonetheless delighted because we love the athleticism and talents Cassius brings to the table and believe he has a greater upside.
All of the starters played well; indeed, everyone on the team played well, so there is no criticism to be leveled. Tre and Jordan were absolutely dominant on defense against the hapless Wildcats. Tre even added a couple of nice jumpers from inside the arc, which is all that we can reasonably expect from him.
Once again, Matthew was able to score almost at will on the inside against his much smaller opponents. And Vernon came back after a terrible prior outing and really impressed. He showed us some real quickness, some jumping ability (which we had questioned), and his usual soft shooting touch. If Vernon can add toughness and consistency, he will be the godsend that this team needs.
We will not go player by player because this game was so meaningless. Just one final note about Cassius. While the kid still has not made any real effort to score from the outside, he wowed us with a couple of scoring drives. He has terrific quickness, perhaps the most important single attribute in basketball. We will love watching him develop.
And so on to Kansas. Then we will see what this team is really made of.
Duke 69. Northwest Missouri State 63 (October 26, 2019) . We were delighted that this contest gave us an excuse to turn off the Duke/UNC football game -- a constant string of missed tackles on defense and missed receivers on offense was too much even for our hardened stomachs. Unfortunately, it turned out that basketball proved no more palatable. This was a pathetic performance by Duke, at least on the offensive end of the court.
As always, we doff our beanies to the opponents. For a bunch of kids who could not land on Division One rosters, they played great ball. And they were simply unconscious down the stretch, hitting trey after trey to bring a fifteen plus Duke spread down to six. In all, the Bearcats were an astounding 15 of 34 from long; Duke, in contrast, was 2 for 16. Ladies and gentlemen, this is very, very worrisome. Coming into the season, we knew that Duke had to hit jumpers to be a force. So far, they have done nothing but underwhelm in that regard. It is beginning to look very ominous indeed.
From the beginning, we thought that Wendell was going to be a liability from the outside. He certainly solidified that assessment in this game. He was 2 for 11 from the floor, and 0 for 4 from long. The last one was an air ball. We knew that he was going to get a lot of minutes from K. But if he continues to shoot like this, he will be one of a long line of Dukies who have been unjustifiably rewarded by his Coach. Stacking Moore on the court with Tre, Jordan and Jack at the same time, as was the case for a while in this game, is simply an offensive disaster. Duke has to be effective on both ends, not just on defense.
After a nice outing in the Blue/White, Vernon Carey was no factor whatsoever in this game. He picked up a couple of quick offensive fouls and wound up on the pine for most of the contest. And when he did get in, he showed little. He biggest stat number was his 4 turnovers. Again, not good.
Matthew Hurt came in with a scorer's label, but we are still waiting for him to show us anything from the outside. He did, however, have a very productive evening in the paint, scoring 17 points on 8 for 16 shooting. The caveat is that the Bearcats really have no strength underneath, so this is in no way indicative of what will happen in conference play. Still, Matthew was one of the few bright spots for Duke.
The leading scorer for Duke was Tre Jones, and that is actually not a good thing. Of course, none of those were from the outside. Jones was 6 for 15 off the drive. He also played his usual very solid defense, and committed no turnovers. Much better than the Blue/White and what we want from him this year (though we hope he will take fewer shots).
Jack White started the game and played 24 minutes. He led the squad with 10 boards, but only contributed 4 points. Again, those boards will be harder to come by against bigger and more athletic teams. It was a solid effort by Jack, though certainly not dominating in any way.
Cassius got 21 minutes from K and showed a couple of flashes. He hit one of Duke's two treys, a jumper from the side. He also had a lovely block on the other end. But the box score reveals little else ... 4 points and but one rebound in all that court time. Even so, we do think that he shows more potential than we have seen from Wendell.
Javin was Javin. Seven boards, but only 4 points and 5 turnovers in his 17 minutes. At least Duke was able to go with Matthew (and even Jack at times) in the Five slot against the small Bearcats.
Jordan Goldwire has never been a favorite of ours, but he did have a very nice defensive outing in this one. He came up with 4 steals in his 24 minutes. He even made a couple of foul shots down the stretch, after missing a couple earlier. K will reward him for that defense, though we suspect it will be too graciously.
And that brings us to Poor Alex. In many ways, Alex was the most impressive athlete on the court. He was quick to the hoop and the boards and made some nifty passes, two of which were flubbed by his teammates. Alas, Alex was just 1 for 5 from the field. This continues the disturbing trend that we saw down the stretch last season, as well as in the Blue/White. Perhaps he is another of those Dukies whose early shooting ability has suffered from too much weight room work. We hope not. In any event, we have no expectation that Alex will get the PT that his athletic talents would require. He had 13 minutes in this one. Poor Alex.
Blue - White Game (October 18, 2019). We got our first glimpse of the collective squad and, while tantalizing, the results do offer some real areas of concern.
Without a Zion Williamson, this is a squad that is well-balanced in terms of overall playing ability. Indeed, it will be particularly hard for El Greco! to narrow his PT decisions down to the usual seven or eight (though we are confident he will ultimately find a way). At least in theory, we would expect to see a better jump shooting team than last season (not saying much), but also a team that may be particularly weak on the defensive glass. Time will tell, but we will have to wait until after the meaningless exhibition season to get a true handle.
Let's talk a bit about what we specifically saw last evening. The teams came out hot, nailing jumpers. First was Matthew Hurt with a beautifully smooth long one from the side-court line. Then Alex nailed another. Even Jordan, of all people, hit from long. Alas, this impressive display lasted all of about five minutes, after which the teams seemed determined to imitate the Duke mold of last season. The long-range shooting was simply pathetic; in fact, we don't think either team hit another trey except for a pop by Vernon Carey, We trust that this will be an aberration; if not, it will be a long season.
First, brief kudos to Justin Robinson. He has been completely on the fringes until this, his senior, season ... and for good reason given his limited athleticism. However, he played a smart and opportune game last night. As the only reserve to get in the action, he had six points and four boards in twelve minutes. He may actually prove himself valuable in a pinch over the course of this season. Nice to see.
The new kids on the block each showed some good things. Vernon Carey will no doubt receive the most praise. He looked very good on the offensive end. Mr. Okafor came to Duke with a reputation for his offensive footwork and scoring ability around the basket, but Vernon was even more impressive. His shot was soft and unerring and, unlike Mr. Okafor, can extend well outside. But outside is the last place that we want him to be. We just doubt that K has the discipline to keep Mr. Carey where he belongs. Actually, the big issue with Vernon will be his contribution inside on put-backs and on defense. He grabbed just three rebounds in his seventeen plus minutes, and that does not bode well.
Matt Hurt has been garnering a lot of press early on for his offensive prowess. He is a solid athlete with a very smooth shot. But consistency in actual game conditions is the key. In this one, he was just 2 for 9 from the floor, and had but two boards over a full twenty minutes. Not good. What we liked most was the terrific stroke at the foul line, where he was four for four.
Wendell Moore solidified our initial impression during the High School All-Star contests of last season, though he seems even a tad bigger now. He handles it well for his 6-6 size, drives to the hoop beautifully and almost always with good results, and plays solid D. He is simply not, however, a jump shooting threat (he was zero for four in this one). When he is on the court with Tre, defenses will be able to sag without being burned. With Wendell, it is all about the drive, baby.
That brings us to Cassius Stanley. Duke's final signee is also, to us, the most intriguing. The kid has great athleticism as we all know ... the stories of his breaking Zion's vertical leap record are now legion. But it appears to us that the athleticism is married with real skills. He has a solid handle, and a soft and accurate jumper within about ten feet to boot. What we have simply been unable to assess is his ability to hit from beyond the arc. That is not his reputation, but the softness of his touch does give us some hope that it will develop. Of course, "develop" is often a word of little import when dealing with a one and done. Anyway, we thought Cassius played quite well, shooting five for ten and grabbing a team high eight rebounds. He seems more willing to go inside than Vernon.
Now on to the rest of the squad. Our readers will know that we have long been admirers of the talents on Alex O'Connell. The kid is a very good shooter and a great athlete. Unfortunately, the former was not quite so evident last night since Alex missed his final four jumpers after nailing the first. But the athleticism was in full display. We also saw some great dishes after driving the lane. The kid has got to get more PT this season.
Tre Jones had a terribly disappointing evening. He elected to come back to show the world that he could develop a jump shot. Well, judging by what we saw in this one, we may have to see him back for another season. Tre was one for ten from the floor and zero for three from long. Ouch. Adding one assist and one steal over twenty minutes did nothing to enhance. It can only get better, and we are confident that it will.
Javin DeLaurier was solid on the glass, picking up eight rebounds to lead the White team. He also, as usual, led the group with three fouls. And the offense was pretty much as normal, with an outside jumper hitting nothing even close to the rim.His role is purely defensive.
Joey Baker, we suspect, will continue to be the odd man out. He played the fewest minutes of any starter (a tad over thirteen) and did nothing to impress. He was one of two from the floor, with only one board and a couple of turnovers. He will struggle to find minutes this season.
Jack White was, well, Jack White. Nothing from long, but otherwise a gritty performance. Only four points, but four boards and a whopping six assists. Just a glue guy.
And so it went. We will continue to offer reports on the exhibition contests, though these shall be of little interest to us.