Duke plays one more game, a tough one against a Big Ten opponent, before its season-opening gauntlet of games is complete.
Saturday’s 75-59 win over Boston College in the Blue Devils’ ACC opener pushed Duke to an 8-2 overall record.
Tuesday night’s game with Iowa (6-1) in the Jimmy V Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden will be Duke’s 11th game in the season’s first 30 days.
“We’re not the only ones when I say this,” Duke first-year coach Jon Scheyer said. “There are a lot of teams that have tough stretches. But consistently, we’ve played in some tough games with either zero-day prep, one-day prep, or two days. So for our guys to kind of figure it out on the fly a little bit, I think he says a lot about their character and their maturity.”
December’s schedule, with built-in time off for final exams, is more forgiving. Following the Iowa game, the Blue Devils will play only three games the rest of the month — covering 25 days.
As proud as Scheyer and the Blue Devils are with how they’ve started the season, they know better play is possible after a few practices dedicated to themselves rather than prepping for the next opponent.
“I think the practice time will do us well,” Scheyer said. “Just to recover and get our bodies back a little bit. I thought this said a lot about our team.”
Duke’s play in home wins over Ohio State, 81-72, on Wednesday night followed by a dominant performance against Boston College showed progress following last Sunday’s 75-56 loss to Purdue in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament final at Portland, Oregon.
Here’s some things the Blue Devils showed that are important for them to continue as the season moves forward.
Better ball sharing
Its defense playing better than its offense thus far this season, Duke needed to start evening that out. Ball movement on offense proved a great way to do just that.
Duke played three games in Portland last week, edging Oregon State, 54-51 and beating Xavier, 71-64, before the Purdue loss. In those three games, the Blue Devils posted 26 assists on 64 field goals, a 41% assist rate.
In beating Ohio State and Boston College, Duke’s assist rate jumped to 66% (35 assists on 53 field goals).
For the season, Duke’s assist rate is 54.5%, which is 108th nationally according to KenPom.com.
The increased assist rate led to better overall shooting this week, too. Duke shot 26.7% against Oregon State (it’s worst shooting in a win in program history), 50% against Xavier and 36.2% against Purdue.
The Blue Devils shot 45.5% in beating Ohio State and 52.8% against Boston College.
Use the bigs
The increased passing led to more production on higher percentage shots, particularly against Boston College on Saturday.
Kyle Filipowski, Duke’s 7-foot freshman center, scored 13 points. Only one of his made field goals was a 3-pointer.
Dereck Lively II, Duke’s 7-1 freshman center who forms a twin-towers setup with Filipowski, scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting as the Blue Devils guards were adept at finding him on lob plays for dunks. Lively did all that while playing just 19 minutes.
Ryan Young, Duke’s 6-10 graduate student forward, provided six points while hitting his only two shots.
Mark Mitchell, a 6-8 inside-out player as a freshman, hit 6 of 7 shots to score 15 points. He drew four fouls while Filipowski was fouled three times and Lively and Young once each.
“Just playing inside-out is a big thing for us,” Duke junior guard Jeremy Roach said. “If our shots aren’t falling, we’ve got big guys who can go to work inside. We’ve got so many things going on the inside that we can’t just rely on our jump shots. I think we did that tonight. We’re still trying to figure out our team.”
Another freshman, 6-7 forward Dariq Whitehead, played 16 minutes against Boston College. After missing the season’s first three games while recovering from the fractured foot he suffered in August, Whitehead has yet to play more than 17 minutes in any game.
The Blue Devils are slowly working him back into game shape, just as they are with Lively.
But each game, Whitehead shows glimpses of the talent that’s made him a projected first-round pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.
Whitehead made 3 of 5 shots from the field to score six points. He had two assists and grabbed three rebounds. Two of his baskets came during an 11-0 Duke run in the second half that put the game away.
He also dived on the court during a scramble for a loose ball to secure the possession and dish the ball to a Duke teammate.
“That sparked our entire team,” Scheyer said. “That sparked our bench. Those plays are huge. Dariq made that and then the scoring, the driving, the attacking, that’s going to come naturally for him.”
On the downside, Whitehead did commit two first-half fouls against Boston College. That included a blatant offensive foul when Whitehead barreled into an Eagles defender. That was one of his three turnovers.
“He just needs some more game reps,” Scheyer said. “He’s had three practices. So he needs some practice time as well. But I really liked what he did tonight.”