It was far from a perfect game, but the Blue Devils were able to fend off Clemson for their fifth consecutive victory. Despite winning the turnover battle and the rebounding margin, Clemson was unable to leave Cameron with a win, leaving the Blue Devils only one game back from first in the ACC. Here are my three takeaways from the win:
Cool Hand Luke Saves Duke Again
Once again, Luke Kennard saved this Duke team from near disaster. Luke dropped 25 points, shooting 4-8 from deep and only committing one turnover which is pretty remarkable considering his workload on the offensive end. What is so special about Kennard is his ability to score all over the court. He uses his pivot foot better than anyone in the country, he finishes at the rim, and we all know what he can do from downtown. Efficiency, poise, consistency… Cool Hand Luke continues to put it all on display and is worthy of being seriously considered for ACC Player of the Year.
Lack of Depth… or Lack of Utilization?
Harry Giles, ESPN’s #1 recruit in the nation coming into the season, grabbed five rebounds in just ten minutes in the first half. Marques Bolden, ESPN’s #16 recruit, only played two first half minutes with one bucket. The two McDonald’s All Americans never saw the court in the second half. Even with Amile Jefferson picking up his fourth foul and the five guys on the court in utter exhaustion, Coach K refused to go to his bench in the second half. This blatant lack of trust is concerning given the potential that this bench has. What was once thought to be one of the deepest teams in Coach K’s career now seems to be a six man rotation. In order for both Harry Giles and Marques Bolden to develop, they MUST see minutes on the floor. This one is a head-scratcher for me… two guys that every program in the country would kill to have glued to the bench an entire half. I hope this changes on Wednesday, but then again, Coach K has definitely earned our trust and he may see/know something that we don’t.
Quick Turnaround Lapses
If this team is going to make a run in March, they must handle these quick turnaround games much better. After looking as sharp as ever on Thursday, Duke barely eked out a win against a pretty dreadful Clemson team. Duke appeared flat-footed and winded for parts of this game, similar to how they looked against NC State and Florida State, all on short rest. For Duke to thrive in the NCAA Tournament, they cannot afford to lose focus and stamina like they have in the past. With the starters logging 174 of the 200 minutes against Clemson, a deeper rotation may be just what this team needs.