Alex Murphy had a career high in just about all categories Saturday against the Delaware Blue Hens, but is this a cracking of the egg for the redshirt freshman, or a just a game against a less talented team where he rose to the occasion?
Bottom line, either/or is good news for the Blue Devils. Duke is proving to be a multiple threat offense. The regular starting 5 are averaging double figures, while the bench has been virtually non-existent in the scoring column. Saturday, both Murphy (10 points) and freshman Amile Jefferson (12 points) scored in double figures, in what Duke fans hope is sign the Blue Devils’ bench is waking up.
Seth Curry sat out the game resting his injured leg, that he aggravated against Ohio State Wednesday night. Some reports are that he suffered a new injury, this one to his left ankle, but whatever the case Curry needed rest and with the Blue Hens providing little opposition, this was as good time as any to let him sit.
This opened up some more playing time for both Murphy and Jefferson, and when Rasheed Suliamon and Josh Hairston got into a little foul trouble, both were given a window of opportunity and at least for one game took it.
Lucky for Duke, they rose to the challenge and not only statistically, but with their hustle plays. Murphy added 7 rebounds and Jefferson had 6. Murphy had a rather impressive come from behind block in transition, and Jefferson had a couple of 3 point play opportunities with some strong moves to the basket. The hustle plays earn the playing time.
My observation is that if Duke can deepen their bench so that the starters can play 32-36 minutes on average, the likelihood of continual success will be an easier path.
Was this the coming out party for Murphy and Jefferson? It better be, because Duke will need more than Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston off the bench. They are the defensive stoppers, Murphy needs to score and stretch the defense. Jefferson brings life off the bench and is a play maker. Add Marshall Plumlee and the Duke bench can reasonably give the starting 5 a breather without such a drop in production.
The obvious story from Saturday’s game though is Murphy who has been the center of a lot of speculation following two DNPs registered this year and barely getting more than a minute or two of action, even in games where the opponents were not top tier. Some have suggested Murphy might transfer and every emotion, every facial expression has been analyzed and broken down.
A recent story in the Fayetteville Observer perhaps has shifted some of those thoughts as a rational sounding Murphy talked about what he needed to do to get better and contribute more in games. He talked about confidence and if Saturday’s game improves that Duke fans could very well see him in more games.
Still, just like with the transfer rumors it is best not to rush to any judgments until Murphy starts playing more consistently, but Saturday can only help.
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