Not often do you face a trap game in the first game of the season, but given how Duke played in their season opener against Georgia State it looked like the Blue Devils were in one.
Duke played a sloppy first half of basketball, even by first game standards but were able to bounce back in the second both offensively and defensively to take care of business winning 74-55. Still this wasn’t a game of beauty.
In the first half the Blue Devils committed 9 turnovers and only had 2 assists while only getting four offensive rebounds. For the game they were out rebounded by a much smaller team 33-31.
Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that it was the unconventional play of Georgia State that kept them off balance earlier but was overall pleased with the play of his team, especially on the defensive end.
Perhaps the biggest story from this game came from a guy who didn’t even play. Freshman Alex Murphy, who had started both exhibition games earlier in the season did not even get into the game. When asked about it following the game Krzyzewski was cryptic.
“We didn’t get to where Alex would play. But Alex has got to be able to play,” Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski added that Murphy was neither hurt nor sick, so the speculation will be surely rampant until Murphy sees his first action and it the Blue Devils next game against defending champions Kentucky would be quite the test.
Most that knew anything about Duke Basketball had been expecting a starting lineup of Quinn Cook, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Rasheed Sulaimon, but Krzyzewski went with Tyler Thornton instead of Cook. And the much anticipated debut of Murphy, Duke’s one true wing player, has to be an area of concern for Duke fans though that isn’t likely a concern for Krzyzewski.
Ryan Kelly said that he felt that the team did manage to improve as the game went on. The Blue Devils failed to attack the basket and fell back into some old habits setting for long shots and not doing much on the offensive glass when they missed. But part of that could be due to Georgia State’s zone defenses that the employed.
Overall, while Duke did shoot fairly well (51 percent for the game, 45 percent from 3-point range) the struggle on the glass against a smaller teams was evident. The Panthers out rebounding the Blue Devil especially on the offensive end has to be an are where they improve.
Also the point guard play is another area that may be something to keep an eye on. Cook did not have a particularly strong game scoring only eight points while dishing out only two assists and committing two turnovers. Tyler Thornton was the better player scoring 13 points but he had three assists and four turnovers.
Duke struggled mightily last year without a true point guard and if one of those guys can’t step up, there could be some rough times ahead.
Mason Plumlee led the team Blue Devils with 19 points and added 14 rebounds, his third straight double double counting the two exhibitions. He also led the team in shots taken which isn’t something that has not happend for a Duke bigman in quite sometime.
“Mason was a force. I thought just a couple careless turnovers late in the game or else his performance was outstanding,” Krzyzewski said.
The Blue Devils had to be happy with the performance of Seth Curry, who played 30 minutes and scored 15 points. Krzyzewski said he had only practice twice and Curry admitted that it caused him to have some rust without getting the chance to be in his regular practice routine.
“I’m used to going in the gym a few hours everyday,” Curry said. “That (rust) showed in the first exhibition game. I definitely need to get that out of my system and come out early and play well.”
Defensively, Krzyzewski said he was pleased with the teams efforts as they held Georgia State to 37.3 percent shooting for the game. Last season the Blue Devils struggled to keep opponents under 40 percent for most of the year so if that area can improve expect them to potentially be more successful. .
“Our defensive was very good,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s two games in a row… that our defense was very good.”
Another thing that was encouraging and also very good to see was the performance of the freshman. While Sulaimon didn’t have a huge game he was solid scoring 6 points, grabbing four rebound and getting four assists to one turnover.
Fellow freshman Amile Jefferson was solid as well as a spark of the bench. He scored 5 points and grabbed two rebounds but was very active and showed that he is building a case for playing time.
Moving forward Duke will have a few days to prepare for Kentucky, however, an effort like the one against Georgia State is very likely not going to be good enough.
There are many questions that remain including the situation with Murphy. Krzyzewski did indicated that they are hoping to get Marshall Plumlee back next week though he won’t be ready for the Kentucky game on Tuesday. He indicated that they are hoping he can get some minutes against Flordia Gulf Coast on November 18.
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