It wasn’t a thing of beauty but Duke was able to use a second-half burst to get past reigning Division II National Champion, Drury to conclude its exhibition portion of its schedule.
The Blue Devils 81-65 victory didn’t come without a few tense moments as the No. 4 team in the country found itself trailing by four at half-time. Duke used a strong all-around performance from sophomore forward Amile Jefferson who scored 13 points and chipped in 16 rebounds and looked like the best player on the floor.
Rodney Hood also flexed his offensive muscle scoring a team-high 21 points on 8-14 shooting and playing a team high 36 minutes. Duke got 13 points from freshman Jabari Parker and Quinn Cook while no one else cracked double figures. The Blue Devils also played without Rasheed Sulaimon whom, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said had been ill and had not recovered to the point where he could play.
Krzyzewski found himself in mid-season form arguing with officials and attempting to fire up his team, one point even taking it out on chair in an attempt to fire up his squad that appeared somewhat disjointed if not disinterested in playing.
Social media was a buzz with the Blue Devils struggles as many showed frustration and concern that it took Duke, a team picked by many as a Final Four contender to put away Drury. However, those individuals need to bare in mind that Drury, as Krzyzewski would say is a team that has one a championship. They know how to win.
It is clear that to date, this Duke team still has a ways to go before they can say the same thing. Although extremely talented they have flaws and weaknesses that must be addressed starting with some familiar weaknesses that have plagued recent teams; defense and rebounding.
While Duke managed to outrebound the Panthers 42-35, the fact that their tallest player is only 6-foot-6 and it was that close could spell trouble against bigger more physical team. The Blue Devils are built to run and half-court games that force them to slow down could cause problems if that other team has big bodies and shooters, and they get lots of second opportunities which Drury got Saturday.
Defensively Duke struggled to slow down the Drury shooters who shot just under 44 percent for the game. This has been a trend in recent years where the Blue Devils just haven’t been able to provide the defensive intensity that has become a staple of the program under Krzyzewksi.
Another eye-popping stat is that the Blue Devils only shot 15-28 from the charity stripe, just over 50 percent. In a game against a top-tier team like say Kansas, they cannot afford to leave those kind of points on the table.
One the positive side, there is very little reason to panic after just one poor performance in an exhibition game. On the other hand fans should perhaps quell some of those grandiose notions that nets will definitely be cut down this season. This team is not perfect, nor should anyone expect them to be, but they are still plenty talented and if they can sure up a few things, by the end of the year they have as good a chance as any to cut down some nets.
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