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Finally Duke fans got to see their beloved Blue Devils in live action against someone other than a teammate. Duke won their exhibition against the Panthers of Virginia Union who are the reigning 2018 CIAA Tournament Champions 106-64. For those expecting a complete cakewalk doesn’t understand how Coach Mike Krzyzewski schedules in the preseason. Everything for a reason, everything for a purpose. Virginia Union, primarily a zone team, was a great test in the early going for a Blue Devil squad with 3-point shooting question marks. Duke figures to see a good amount of zone as teams look to exploit this perceived weakness.

The talent level between the two teams was obvious but the Panthers were not rattled. During the first half Duke struggled to take care of the ball turning the ball over 9 times leading to 10 Virginia Union points. Offensively Duke was pretty much on point scoring 52 points in the first half. Paced by 19 points from R.J Barrett and 16 from Zion Williamson Duke took a 52-36 lead into halftime. Tre Jones turned in a 7 assist to 2 turnover half in his Duke debut. While Duke didn’t shoot a fantastic percentage from beyond the arc 7-19 is a serviceable number, especially in the first half of the first exhibition.

The second half saw Duke step up their defense intensity. Duke was much active in the passing lanes and were able to turn 13 Virginia Union turnovers into 20 points while only turning the ball over 6 times themselves. The second half saw Zion living his best life going 5-5 from the field, 3-3 from the free throw line. Williamson ended the game as the leading scorer with 29 points and was efficient at 11 of 13. Zion also dished out 4 assists and grabbed 6 boards. Zion was all over the place and showed a high level understanding of his teammates and how to set them up. Another aspect of Williamson’s game is how well he operates in the post – he makes quick decisive decisions and is clearly a load to guard. How this will translate when the competition is bigger and more skilled will be something interesting to see.

RJ Barrett poured in 23 points in the game despite having foul trouble. Barrett was 3-7 from beyond the arc and also dished out 4 assists. Both Zion and RJ have the alpha dog mentality they just go about it in different ways. RJ did a lot less of forcing the action in this game which has been my chief concern with the freshman. He proved to be a very willing passer and aside from a fast break where he overpenetrated and was called for the offensive foul he seemed to play pretty heady basketball as well.

Tre Jones is the point guard that this team needs. The freshman guard seems to have no complex about playing with so much talent and seemed to do a very good job of making sure as the keyholder of getting everyone involved and more often than not. Making the correct play. Jones finished with 9 assists to only 2 turnovers and 6 points. Jones went 2-4 from beyond the arc and seems to wait on the right shot rather than any shot.

Sophomore Alex O’Connell played 9 minutes in the game but made the most of his time on the floor scoring 10 in that timeframe shooting 4-6 and 2-3 from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard also pulled down 4 rebounds. For me aside from the freshmen O’Connell was the most impressive player, one who came off the bench and made instant impact on the offensive end.

Marques Bolden got the start and from all accounts was hitting consistently during warmups from the outside. No outside shots materialized for the 6’10 junior center and for the first 20 minutes of the game seemed a bit lost. Bolden seemed to come alive in the second half, after some personal talking to from Coach Nate James. Bolden after half-time went 3-3 from the field and was much more active on both ends of the floor. Depending on what happens in the next exhibition game this could be a building block for Bolden. Putting together a string of positive plays hopefully will spark something in the much maligned junior.

Cam Reddish may not have been the most flashy of the freshmen trio of starters and honestly I wasn’t expecting too much from him considering his broken rib (its hard to tell how much if at all it bothered him). Cam didnt have the most efficient shooting day but did manage to add 13 points on 4-13 shooting and 3-10 from 3 point range. Most impressive was the 7 assists turned in by the freshmen.

The issues Duke had were ones what were expected – on the defensive end. Duke’s transition defense was porous and they did not communicate as effective as the coaching staff would have liked. Some of that we can attribute to youth. Duke was often out of position on wing defenders and gave up a few open shots from beyond the arc. There were a few times when Duke defenders were beaten off the drive – it will be interesting to see how Duke responds in game two. The Devils will have to do a much better job of playing team defense – there are some instances where the sheer length and athleticism can give Duke an edge but without communication there will always be holes. Dukes best offensive lineup may not be their best defensive lineup.

The Good:

  • Duke put the game away, made halftime adjustments and implemented.
  • Offensively Duke shot relatively well, and seemed to share the ball well and willingly.
  • 31 points off of turnovers
  • 22 fast break points
  • 5 players with 3 or more assists
  • 58.8% from the field

The Bad:

  • No double digit rebounders
  • 15 turnovers
  • too many defensive miscues


Things to take note of going forward:

Can Duke start a game with the same defensive intensity they finished the game with?

Can Bolden build on his second half performance (babysteps)?

Can Duke value the ball a lot better and clean up the turnovers?

As the Preseason winds down, how many players will Coach K utilize?

Is Cam Reddish still hampered by his broken rib?




Opening Statement “[Virginia Union] did a good job. They’re well coached. They do a lot of nice things. We thought they would play zone. They played zone most of the season last year. It was good for us to face a zone and to face athletic ability. I thought in the first half, they really pushed it on us and we were trying to press too much. That’s me. We gambled a lot. Every time we gambled, we didn’t get it most of the time. It produced a numerical advantage for them and they took advantage of it. Because we are pressing, and we are trying to change presses, when we scored, they got it in quickly. Guys who would normally be back, were up. We were caught in that transition. They did a really nice job of that. In the second half, we just played half court man. I thought we played really well on defense. We had 33 assists, so we shared the ball really well. Playing against the zone was beneficial for us. I liked our effort on the defensive end. We didn’t gamble in the second half, Tre (Jones) put really good pressure on the ball and our bench did a good job. Alex (O’Connell), that’s the best he’s played since he got hurt in Canada. Marques (Bolden) rebounded outside of his area. The second half was good. We got to see some good things.” On problems with communication on defense “It’s not a problem, just a habit we haven’t gotten yet. The first half, by trying to press and change some presses, we made our guys have to talk more than we should have. We should put them in a defense right now where they are more comfortable in doing it. We talked well in the second half. We were just a little all over the place in the first half. Our guys were excited. For five of them, it’s their first game. We tend to forget, even though it’s an exhibition, it’s their first game in Cameron. Let them get over that. We have a lot of growing up to do. But overall, it was a good night for us.”

On Tre Jones’ play

“He needs to take that shot on top because he can hit it. He gambled a little bit in the first half too, trying to get steals. We haven’t had that disciplined ball pressure like that for a while, that he puts on. And when he’s out, RJ (Barrett) can put it on and even Cam (Reddish). I’m really proud of Cam. A week ago, he broke his rib. It’s a non-displace fracture. For him, he hasn’t missed a practice. I’m really proud of him. The same thing happened to Justise (Winslow) his freshman year and it took him a couple of weeks and then he was really good.”

On Cam Reddish having nine assists as a forward

“I don’t think [Cam Reddish] is a forward. I think he’s a player. When Tre is out, you can be really big, all over. You can have Cam, Zion (Williamson), Jack (White), RJ and even Joey (Baker) or Alex. Or a big like Javin (DeLaurier). Those guys are big and they can switch. We’ve been working like crazy on our man to man defense. It’s good to see in the second half, we did a good job.”

On Joey Baker

“[Joey Baker] has had a great week. He’s been tough and really made a jump this past week. He’s a good shooter too. He’s a tough kid and he’s going to be a really good player. He can help us. We have a lot of those 6-6 guys. He and Jack are decent ball handlers. The other guys are really good ball handlers. But they can move their feet on defense and we can switch like that.”

On Jack White’s increased confidence

“I think you saw that in Canada. [Jack White] averaged 28 minutes per game. We saw it in Canada. He had his opportunity and he’s now been consistent. He expects it and his teammates expect it. We have to get [DeLaurier] back to where he was. He missed about two and a half weeks with his injury. They are going to hopefully keep improving. We just have to keep working at it.”



On his contribution to the team’s success tonight:

“I felt like I fit in pretty well. I feel like I’m easy to play with when I’m out there with these guys. As we’ve played only a few games so far and through the practice during the summer, I feel like I’m starting to work out how these guys play more and more every day, which makes it easy for me to make reads off them and it makes it easy for them to know where I am when I’m spotting up. Just naturally the freshmen have been great and they’re playing the right way. They make each other better, they make everyone on the team better, and it’s just made the whole process of coming together as a team a lot easier.”

On the play of the Duke freshmen:

“These guys, from day one, they’ve been putting themselves out there, buying in to the team, the group, just buying in to our culture. They really just gave it up, focus on winning, and they just want to see the team do well and it’s really refreshing to see that from such a talented group of young guys. As you guys kind of see now out on the court, it’s just all kind of coming together now and it’s just a lot of fun. All these guys play up tempo, they all pass, and they’re really just all basketball players, positionless, which makes it fun for us guys playing off them and watching them grow as the season goes on.”


“We’ve been talking about it all week, that we finally get to play against other people and not each other in practice. I think it was a great first experience.”

“For people who know me, I’m not really one to kind of force my way into the game. I let the game come to me and I feel like that’s why I’m very consistent. If the shot was there, I was taking it, and if the pass was there, passing it, and just trying to help my team out in any way I can.”

When asked how he would evaluate where the team is after this first game:

“I think we’re comfortable, and now it’s just being smooth. We’re a little sloppy and there are a lot of thing we need to correct.”


“It was just weird at first, especially in the first half, with it being our first time playing against somebody else, somebody new, so we didn’t really know what to expect. But now, seeing how the team has played, we can build and move forward.”

When asked to assess his defensive ability and what contributed to his strong defensive effort in the first half tonight:

“I’ve been working on it. It’s been emphasized every day by Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] and the coaching staff, so I just try to do my best.”

On what he thinks the areas are where he and the team can improve:

“I think our second half was great. We played really well. Me personally, everything. I don’t think anybody’s perfect. [The coaches] just told me to stop hacking [on defense] because I had four fouls.”

One Comment

  • BIZ says:

    Totally agree re your DEFENSE comment. The Dukie frosh MUST learn the game goes both ways – it’s not just about scoring to impress the NBA scouts! And if K doesn’t accept that he must bench the prima donnas when they aren’t performing, then the season will be doomed – AGAIN. The bench strength is there – ready & waiting. If K can’t manage it properly, someone needs to step up and make him aware!

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