Duke beats a scrappy and talented Wofford team 84 to 55 but as most of these games against probably first round NCAA opponents the final score never indicates what actually occurred in the game. Duke would run away with the game in the final 10 minutes but Wofford did a very good job of keeping this game close. Jahlil Okafor was a beast for Duke scoring 20 points on 11 of 13 from the field, the big man would also pull down 8 rebounds and added a couple of blocks and steals to boot. Okafor would use nearly every move in his repertoire, scoring from everywhere in the lane and hitting his share of Tim Duncan style jumpers. Jahlil also showed his nimbleness moving and pirouetting his way underneath the basket for reverse lay-ups (using the rim to shield off the defender) and at one point leading a fast break and feeding Amile Jefferson for a lay-up. In a word, Jahlil is just skilled.
Justise Winslow would be crucial in Duke maintaining the edge against Wofford in this game scoring 16 points, all in the first half. Winslow would also pull down 7 rebounds and dish out 2 assists. Duke also got a big game from senior guard Quinn Cook who scored 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting including three 3-point buckets. Freshman Tyus Jones did not have a huge scoring day but did find ways to effect the game positively with his rebounding (6), his assists (5) and the freshman also added 4 steals in the game.
Amile Jefferson’s stat-line was not super impressive; he had 10 points which is a great night for the junior, he also had 5 rebounds but it cannot be overstated what he means to this team. Vocally he is a leader and he manages being a wormy lanky pest to get his hands on balls he has no business being able to. On a team with clear boxing out deficiencies I think Amile has a chance to be a guy that can make a difference on the glass.
Clearly looking for more production from his bench Coach K played everyone, and the bench responded with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Rasheed Sulaimon has emerged as the most productive Dukie off the bench in terms of points adding 6 off of two 3 point buckets. I expect to see the minutes for the junior rise as ACC season approaches. Rasheed seems to be rounding into shape and finding his place slowly but surely on a team of heralded freshmen.
There are clear areas that Duke will need to improve on going into ACC Season. Duke needs to work on its rebounding, too often teams are out-working Duke and out-hustling them for rebounds – this is going to be a problem if not worked on, and worked on again. Also, defensively Duke is giving up the lane too easily. With 3 players 6’9 and above there has to be a point when those guys play much better at the rim, and the guards need to do a better job of keeping playmakers in front – this is fixable.
As a whole the last few wins for Duke have not been fan favorites but in my opinion they are truly a means to an end. Although teams like Toledo and Wofford look to be cupcakes there were reasons why they were initially tough to push through. These teams are teams that Duke very well could face in the first round of the NCAA tourney. They are teams that have been scouted well by the Duke staff. Teams that have senior leadership, good guards and teams that are patient and run their sets and aren’t going to fold in Cameron. I think these games are magnificent scheduling moves by K and company and this young team is learning – learning you cannot phone in effort, learning that hustle can beat talent. Yes this team is not a finished product, there are lessons to be learned, and some of those lessons will result in losses but as long as they get to March a better team than the one they are now it is well worth it.