When all is in doubt, allow your defense to spark your offense. That is exactly what transpired in Winston-Salem last night at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum when #8 ranked Duke bounced back with a 12 point win during their first ACC road game of the season.
Coach K stayed in Durham due to non-covid complications, allowing fans to get a glimpse of the future with associate head coach Jon Scheyer running the show.
For the first time this season the starting lineup featured a major change, with 5-star prospect and Mc-Donald’s All-American A.J. Griffin getting the nod over Jeremy Roach. During the pre-season Griffin injured his knee, sidelining him for several weeks. Last night the country got to see the full package of Griffin who displayed his crafty handle, shooting, willingness to penetrate the lane at will and high-flying ability. Moreover, A.J. already has a NBA body and overall skillset that has NBA GM’s drooling. In his first start Griffin shot 8-11 from the field, which included 3-5 from deep, finishing with 22 points. This lineup not only catapulted Duke out the gates in the second half, but it’s very clear this may be their best lineup going forward.
“First of all, it gave us greatsize,” associate head coach Jon Scheyer said about the starting lineup change after the win. “That group that we put out there to begin the game, it’s a big team. Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore Jr., as your two smallest players – they’re big guards that can switch really well; switch one through four at times, or one through five.”
“AJ Griffin has just been coming on,” Scheyer continued. “He’s just been playing really well. We still need Jeremy [Roach] to come through big for us, and he did that in the second half. But it was really AJ’s emergence, the consistency that Mark Williams has had, and then really to spotlight and highlight Paolo Banchero.”
If you’ve followed AJ Griffin throughout high school the writing was on the wall a while ago. The addition of A.J. to the starting lineup gives Duke size at every position, speed on the perimeter, 3-point shooting, grit on defense, and versatility – allowing Duke to rotate one through five.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Early in the first half the Demon Deacon fans mocked potential number one overall pick Paolo Banchero by chanting “DUI,” resulting in Paolo quickly silencing them. Scheyer ran a NBA pro-style offense for a great portion of the game, allowing Griffin and Paolo to isolate Wake Forest into switches and giving Duke the upper-hand on the mismatches. Duke went after Demon Deacons’ senior guard Daivien Williamson, who was undersized against the freshman duo, ultimately forcing Wake to bench Daivien for a great duration of the second half.
Banchero finished the game with 24 points and 11 of 23 from the field, with 5 boards in 38 minutes of action.
As a team, Duke finished the route in Winston Salem shooting 50.8 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from deep, had just 7 turnovers – something they struggled with against Miami this past Saturday night.
Next up for Duke is a home clash with the Pack of NC State inside Cameron Indoor Saturday 2:00 PM.