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It was easy to see why Blue Devils fans went into tonights game with a heavy amount of trepidation. Duke hadn’t been playing their best basketball and had already racked up 2 losses in March, couple that with what happened to the Kentucky Wildcats and fear set in. The other factors that added to my own fears for this team were how they’ve played against older teams (not very well) and the aggregate amount of tournament experience being basically nil. The Blue Devils came out strong, playing tough, physical basketball and sans a little game pressure and a few runs by the Titans, Duke controlled the game from start to finish.

Duke jumped out to a 22-9 lead and seemed on the cusp of putting the Titans away but several turnovers and several Duke players slipping led to some fast break opportunities that gave Cal State some life. 12 of the Titans 27 points in the first half came off of Duke turnovers. Duke lead dwindled down to 6 but good close to the half saw that lead jump back up to 10 at the break.

Duke came out of the gate strong in the second half, jumping out to a 20 point lead. Duke used an 18-8 run to begin the half starting with a triple from AJ Griffin followed by 3 free throws from Jeremy Roach. The Titans were never able to get closer than 13 in the second half. Paolo Banchero scored a team high 17 points on 7-14 shooting, the freshman forward also pulled down 10 rebounds and dished 4 assists. Sophomore Mark Williams went 6-7 from the field, scoring 15 points. Williams also grabbed 7 rebounds, had 5 blocks and 5 assists. He’s the first Duke player to have a 15+5+5+5 line in NCAA history tournament history.

The Blue Devils as a team registered 10 blocked shots on the defensive end, they also held the Titans to 37.5% shooting for the game. It was definitely not a perfect game by any means. The Blue Devils fell into some bad habits with a few live ball turnovers – 4 by freshman Trevor Keels who is still searching for his shot. Keels was 0-2 from beyond the arc but 3-7 overall – but clearly struggling to find his shot and his role. As a team the Blue Devils turned it over 13 times. The other issue that needed cleaning up for the Blue Devils was on defensive glass. The Blue Devils gave up 12 offensive rebounds to the much smaller Titans. So despite the 17 point win there are lots of things for this team to continue to improve on. The defense was much better tonight and the communication was there. You could see and hear guys talking and being much more connected. Offensively Duke shot 51.7% from the field and 41% from 3, not much better can be done.