In the last of Duke’s exhibition games the Blue Devils hosted Livingstone College out of Salisbury, North Carolina. The Devils weren’t expected to struggle in this game and for the most part they did not – as expected it was a blowout to the tune of 119-54. The Devils started out strong pressing the Blue Bears and forcing early turnovers, Duke took advantage of those miscues (18 in the first half) and rode them to a halftime lead of 61-24.
Duke was paced in the first half by Grayson Allen who scored 14 in the first stanza on his way to 19 for the game. The sophomore shot 7-14 overall but only 2-6 from 3 point range. Grayson seemed to be pressing the issue just as much in this game as the first but with much better results. Allen also looked for his teammates more and managed to dish out 7 assists. Brandon Ingram also had an impressive first half scoring 14 on his way to 24 points for the game. The freshman seems to be unafraid to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court despite not having a strong showing from beyond the arc yet in this pre-season. Ingram seems most effective offensively when he drives the ball, taking advantage of mismatches or pulling up for the nearly unblockable mid-range jumper. Ingram has shown that putting him at the top of whatever zone Duke runs is a recipe for turnovers by the other team. His spider-like length aided in Dukes ability to turn the Blue Bears over and the freshman finished with 5 steals and a ton of deflections.
Probably the most efficient player so far in the early going of the season has been freshman Luke Kennard, who went 6-11 from 3 point range and 8 of 17 overall. Kennard also added 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Rebounding from the wing spot could be a crucial element this year for the Blue Devils and getting 9 from Kennard is hopefully a very good sign. Kennard has also shown himself to be a capable defender albeit against lesser competition so far.
Freshman Chase Jeter also had a strong showing in this game being thrust into more minutes than expected with an apparent ankle injury to senior forward Amile Jefferson. Jefferson started the game strong going 3 for 3 and showing that for a power forward he has the ability to rebound the ball and lead the break to help Duke catch defenses off guard. Jeter gobbled up the remainder of the minutes from Jefferson who only played 5 total and took advantage going 5 for 5 from the field and pulling down 11 boards notching a double-double.
Guard Derryck Thornton also scored in double figures for the Devils (11) as he adjusts and learns the point guard position, the freshman didn’t shoot particularly well going 2 out of 9 but did his 6-7 of his free throws and dished 2 assists to 1 turnover. So far in 2 games Thornton has been the fastest man on the court, it will be interesting to see going forward how Duke utilizes that speed to their advantage.
Marshall Plumlee, the senior center, still has been Dukes best player through 2 games and it still feels like found money. Plumlee has shown a very good acumen for the game and is making plays like the elder statesman he is. He’s running the floor, finishing plays and seems to have put his “yips” behind him. Plumlee scored 11 points in the game, going 5 of 5 from the field. The senior also stuffed stats with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks.
Overall Duke looked strong in the first half but there were messy spots which does tend to manifest in games where the lead is so large. Duke seemed to be able to calm things when the play became helter-skelter which is a feat considering they were without two of their captains as Matt Jones did not play due to a nagging injury and Amile left early due to what looks like an ankle or foot injury.
The goal of these early games is not necessarily to put this team in peril but to allow them a faster maturation process in front of what they will face in games that actually count. Real game situations always trump what can happen in a controlled scrimmage or practice. Hopefully with a team this young games like this prepare them because a juggernaut named Kentucky is looming large on the schedule.