Duke has been one of the hottest things in sports since their Tuesday night dismantling of Kentucky. From social media to national media, there’s been pro player comparisons, questions about where this squad ranks among the best ever and even discussions about which pro team they could defeat. But Sunday afternoon’s game, against an Army team that challenged the Blue Devils well into the 2nd half, will help temper some of the noise that has surrounded this squad.
“Part of becoming good is keeping the noise out of your locker room,” Coach K said after the game. “And when something good happens and you have the start of the season there’s a lot of noise. For us, it’s not always good noise, but in this case it was exceptional noise.”
The Black Knights came out and immediately made the statement that they weren’t going to lay down and give the Blue Devils an easy win. They pushed the ball, ran with Duke, forced turnovers and hit outside shots. Head Coach Jimmy Allen commented on how well his team stuck to their game plan heading into Sunday’s matchup.
“Our guys prepared and I think our guys stuck to the game plan. We were trying to keep [Duke] out of the paint, from getting some easy baskets inside and force them to take some shots from the perimeter. I thought our guys did a really good job of that. Our goal going the other direction was to play with pace and try to create some easy baskets for us. Probably the best thing we did today was taking care of the basketball and not giving them opportunities in transition.”
“We studied [Army],” Duke freshman RJ Barrett said after the game, “and knew they’d push the ball. But I have give them a lot of respect. We’d score and they got that ball inbounds very fast and pushed it down the floor. Their point guard [Tommy Funk], he’s a very talented guard. He controlled the team and I don’t think he made any bad plays, so I think it was a great experience for us to play against him.”
After allowing Army to pull within six points with 12:14 remaining, the Blue Devils hunkered down defensively – leading to a nearly 3 minute Black Knight scoring drought and 78-63 lead with 9:15 left in the game. Duke would never look back after that – allowing only 9 more Army points in the 22 point win.
There’s no doubt that after watching Army test Duke, just as many who wanted to deem them the greatest show in college hoops will be questioning how good this squad is. Don’t sleep. They’re legit. But it’s early in the season and according to Coach K, this was the perfect test for a young team who will constantly hear the noise that comes with high expectations.
“There was a different level of noise, and that’s what I’m saying. Obviously we know that as coaches, but the greatest teacher is experience. This week, can you imagine playing that game and this game – the stuff that we’ve learned? Holy mackerel, it’s great. It’s been really good for us.”
Next up the Blue Devils will face Eastern Michigan at Cameron Indoor on Wednesday, November 14th. Tip-off is at 7pm.
• Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s record at Duke is now 1,029-279 in his 39th season. His overall record is 1,102- 338 in this, his 44th season.
• Duke improved to 38-1 in home openers under Coach K and has won 37 straight.
• Duke extended its non-conference home winning streak to 140 games, the nation’s longest active streak.
• The game was Duke’s 439th consecutive sellout at Cameron Indoor Stadium, to extend the longest current streak in either men’s college basketball or the NBA. Duke’s last non-sellout was Nov. 6, 1990.
• Freshman Zion Williamson recorded Duke’s first double-double this season with 27 points and 16 rebounds in 25 minutes. He is 22/27 (.815) from the field with 55 points over the first two games of his college career.
• Williamson recorded a game-high six blocks and also had four assists – the six blocks are tied for the fifth-most by a Duke freshman and the most since Wendell Carter Jr., had six versus Southern (11/17/17).
• Freshman Cam Reddish set a Duke freshman record with seven made three-pointers, going 7/13 from three- point range. The previous record of six had been set 13 times.
• Duke’s freshmen were the team’s four leading scorers – Williamson 27, Reddish 25, RJ Barrett 23 and Tre Jones eight.
• Jones finished with eight points, three rebounds and a team-high seven assists. He has 14 assists and two turnovers in his first two college games.