Duke played their first exhibition games against the Canadian Ryerson Rams and like most games in August it was a mixed bag. While Duke took the game 86-67 there isn’t much one can truly glean from the first game, with FIBA rules and missing 2 starters but there was still a lot to like. Coach K was not kidding when he said the ball would be in R.J.Barretts hands a lot. Barrett shared the primary ball-handling duties with sophomore backup guard Jordan Goldwire and while Barrett did not shoot the ball particularly well he did score a game high 34 points.
Duke fans and foes alike were curious to see what if anything Zion Williamson could do aside from dunking the basketball. While R.J. was the leading scorer and maybe the most aggressive player. Zion may have been the most versatile. Williamson hit 3 out of 4 three pointers, scoring 29 points and pulling down 13 rebounds – most in impressive fashion. Clearly the internet will anoint the young man a knock down shooter before the night is out but anything and everything we see in this game and the remaining 2 need to be taken with a grain of salt. Enthusiasm needs to be curbed. What we can say is that Zion seems to have good instincts, that was the most impressive piece to me.
Duke lost Alex O’Connell early in the game after the sophomore took an elbow to the face. As of right now O’Connell is being evaluated at a local hospital. There was still plenty to mop up after the sloppiness. There far too many turnovers and some of that should be alleviate with Tre Jones returning to the point. 3-point shooting, picked up a bit in the second half as the game opened up some but again, Duke was without 2 starters and went most of the game without the aforementioned O’Connell.
Duke areas of weakness in this particular matchup primarily were on the defensive end. Duke gave up far too many layups and straight line drives. None of this is unexpected in August. Duke also struggled to get looks in the post. Duke will expect more from Marques Bolden going forward, some of Bolden’s lack of production can be attributed to Dukes iffy ball-handling and just not a sufficient amount of touches for the junior. I look for Duke to work more into the post in game 2.
Ryerson was thought to be the toughest of the games in this Canadian tour and Duke was able to handle them despite playing sub par basketball. Duke should look somewhat sharper in game 2.