In Coach K’s return, Duke pulled off their third straight victory on Saturday defeating Pittsburgh by a score of 72-64. It wasn’t a pretty one but a win’s a win… especially in this year’s ACC. With the result, the Blue Devils have surged back into 6th place in the conference with an ACC record of 6-4. Here are my three takeaways:
Falling in Love with the Three
Yes, I understand that penetrating against a zone defense is a difficult task but I have never been a believer in passing around the perimeter and relying on three point shooting for points. For parts of this game, I felt that Duke fell into this trap. Duke took 28 three pointers in this one compared to only 12 against Notre Dame, while attempting remarkably few foul shots with the exception of garbage time fouling. Grayson Allen’s crunch time shooting won the game for the Devils, but there still needs to be more consistency from Grayson and Frank in terms of penetration. I want to see more of the old reckless abandon Grayson who gets to the line ten times a game. Despite the flood of three pointers, the Blue Devils had a very solid day passing the ball. Whether it was Frank or Grayson, the point guard play for Duke looked much more established than it has in the past. Grayson and Frank combined for a refreshing 11 assists.
Jefferson’s Health & Comfort
From my view, Amile looked far more comfortable in this game than the past few since his return from injury. Amile put up very impressive numbers with 15 points and 9 rebounds, while adding 5 blocks on the defensive end. The most eye-catching number for me was his 12 field goal attempts… this is a great sign for the Blue Devils moving forward. Amile’s activity with the ball in the paint looked much more like the early season Amile that was getting double-double after double-double. This is just one of the many pieces that needs to be put together in this puzzle of a season.
The Curious Case of Marques Bolden Continues
Before you read this thinking I may have the inside scoop on this baffling mystery, I don’t. I have absolutely no idea what is going on with Marques Bolden. Could there be some attitude issues? It’s possible. Could it be because K just loves going with small lineups? Maybe. Heck, maybe Marques was caught wearing Duke clothing during the ban, but nonetheless, there has been absolutely no sign of the promising big man in the last few games. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I think it will be crucial to get the youngster comfortable at this level before March comes around. Duke could use his length and rim protection, and may need it if they get in foul trouble. As the rotation currently stands, Duke has three bigs (Jefferson, Giles, Tatum), if you count Tatum who is really a slasher. There could very well be a time when two of those guys are in foul trouble and Duke needs Marques to step up. Bolden has all of the tools and talent, he just needs the experience. At the end of the day, Duke can win without him… but with him, this team has a much higher ceiling.