For a fourth straight game Duke held an opponent to below 60 points. I dont think we need Kenpom stats to know that Duke has improved a tremendous amount on defense. There were a plethora of subplots in Duke’s 60-44 victory against the Syracuse Orange on Saturday night. Firstly the return of freshman star Marvin Bagley III. Marvin Bagley III had been out with a knee injury that had the 6’11 freshmen missing 4 games. The lunatic fringe that resides in every fanbase, Duke included, likes to affix their own storylines to the fact that Duke was uber cautious with this probably first round draft pick. Some said that Bagley would never again play for Duke, that the injury was worse than first reported; some said that Bagley was being held out by his parents and some said it was for some NCAA investigation or violation. I guess there is a reason why fan is short for fanatic – regardless Bagley returned to the sideline and was ready, and although the freshman did not start he did play 31 minutes, pulling down 7 rebounds and scoring 19 points.
The other related subplot was how senior Grayson Allen would perform with Bagley being back in the lineup. Allen had been scoring at a higher clip with Bagley being sidelined and with Bagley returning, Allen’s numbers did take a hit. It’s hard to put the blame on the return of Bagley as the entire backcourt for Duke has problems hitting shots. Allen went 3-9 and 0-6 from 3 point range. Duke as a whole shot awfully from 3 point range going for 2-18 from the field from beyond the arc.
Where Duke did excel was in the paint where they held a 36 to 12 advantage over the orange. Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III handled the bulk of the business in the paint for the Devils scoring 16 and 19 points respectively.
Duke defensively held the Orange to 31.5% from the field and 24% from beyond the arc and tied for their lowest point total in a game this season at 44.
This game showed Duke possesses the ability to simply find ways to win when shots aren’t falling. For most of the season the Duke has relied on the strength of their bigs and this game was a return to that formula. The difference between Duke now and Duke earlier in the season is that Duke didn’t let up on defense when the offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders. Duke, in this game, as the last 4 games prior is hanging their had on the defensive end of the floor.