The Devils Survives, Advances & Will Regroup
It was not a thing of beauty for Duke in it’s first round game against UNC-Wilmington, winning 93-85, but they got the job done. The mantra in the NCAA Tournament has always been survive and advance, it’s that way for a reason. There are games where you have to grind it out and there are games where you win going away. This was, for Duke, a grind it out game.
Duke did a lot to add to the degree of difficulty, especially in the first half with poor free throw shooting, bad reaction times on defense and what seemed like a lack of energy. These things mixed with bad shooting allowed UNC-Wilmington to leave the floor with a 3 point halftime lead.
Duke did do a lot of things better in the second half. The Devils emerged with much more intensity and you could tell right away the half-time speech worked. Duke was also much better from the free throw line. The “Bigs” especially held it down for Duke at the line going a combined 8-11 between Marshall Plumlee and freshman Chase Jeter. Overall Duke was 31-43, and while that is an impressive number of attempts (more than double that of UNC-Wilmington who went 14-19), Duke left a lot of points at the line. Which aided in Duke trailing at the half. As expected Duke did win the rebounding battle 40-29 against a smaller team but did give up some key offensive rebounds to UNC-Wilmington who were very adept, especially in the first half, at getting open looks from beyond the arc.
The key to Dukes victory was simple, in words of WWE Superstar Ryback, “FEED ME MORE”, Duke consistently drove to the basket and fed the Beast of Durham, Marshall Plumlee to the tune of 23 points. Plumlee also added 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots before fouling out – all of this in just 29 minutes. Duke got 23 points out of sophomore Grayson Allen who despite shooting the ball badly managed to drive and get points at the free throw line (15-17). To his credit Allen still pulled in a double-double adding 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Brandon Ingram poured in 20 points and kept Duke in the game in the first half when things started to unravel. Ingram shot 7-12 and only 5-10 from the charity stripe but also had 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
Also good for Duke off the bench were freshmen Derryck Thornton and Chase Jeter. Thornton gave Duke 24 solid minutes, mostly in relief of cold-shooting Luke Kennard. Thornton was 2-3 from the field with 2 assists to 1 turnover. Chase Jeter scored 5 points, went 3-5 from the line and gave the Devils 10 solid minutes in relief or Marshall Plumlee.
Duke will have to improve upon boxing out, free throw percentage and clean up some general sloppy play going forward against either Yale or Baylor in the next round.