Duke got its first ACC win in South Bend Wednesday night, taking down Notre Dame by a score of 75-65. Despite missing Jalen Johnson, whose injured foot was announced a day before the game, the Blue Devils played the best game we’ve seen from them all season, and at least by the end, it wasn’t as close as it looks. To Notre Dame’s credit, their 3-point shooting kept them in the game throughout the 2nd half while Duke was knocking on the door of a blowout. Dane Goodwin had 25 points for the Irish, while Duke was led by Matthew Hurt with 18, DJ Steward with 16, and Jeremy Roach with 14.
#10 Duke fell behind early and couldn’t claw back against #6 Illinois on Tuesday, losing 83-68 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Illinois shot 58% from the field and had seven players with nine points or more. They jumped out to a 12-2 lead early and Duke just couldn’t claw back. Similarly to other games, Matthew Hurt was the primary scorer of the game followed by DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach, but the rest of Duke’s offense was just not where it needed to be. Hurt and Steward were also the only Duke players shooting over 50% from the field.
Let’s be fair to Illinois: they’re not, at least of recent, a basketball powerhouse but they’re good this season and their ranking is only that low because of a close loss to #2 Baylor. They have a balanced, experienced attack (see the seven players with 9+). They have a quality defense. They played physical. Duke was in this game, at least.
Freshman Jalen Johnson scored 7 points on 30% shooting. He’s a freshman, so it’s expected that he has up and down games. But in big games like these, he just hasn’t been the presence we thought he’d be.
Duke needs an offensive spark whose name isn’t Matthew Hurt or DJ Steward. Senior Jordan Goldwire is a start: he’s been playing his heart out and this team needs him badly, but he doesn’t have the offensive power to set up scoring for a top-ten team. Mark Williams didn’t play much but didn’t play as promisingly this time, either. Jeremy Roach was relatively good. Steward could also get more touches; if he takes more shots he could really start to show out. Coach K is still experimenting, but this offense does not look put together is frankly not ready to go into ACC play yet. Let’s hope that changes soon.
The good news? Duke forced 18 turnovers and committed 12. Keep widening that margin against teams that aren’t as good as Illinois and you have yourself a lot of fast break opportunities.
Without interruption, Duke will take a short rest then play Charleston Southern on Saturday at 2pm, the last game before ACC play begins at Notre Dame next week.
First of all, why is there a blackout for a game that doesn’t allow fans? Seriously, broadcasting world? So I didn’t get to see it (thanks a lot, ACC Network) but Duke made its way past Bellarmine by a score of 76-54. Similarly to other games, there were high and low points for the Blue Devils, but they bounced back from Tuesday’s loss to Michigan State and regained some momentum. There were some big energy sparks, too. Take for instance:
DJ Steward is 6’2″ (he doesn’t look like it but anyone’s going to look short next to Mark Williams, our 7-footer), had a monster game in the opener with 24 points, and although his statline isn’t fantastic for tonight he still plays a major role for this team keeping the intensity high.
Interestingly, Mark Williams started today at the five. Mostly known for his incredible length, Williams had a pretty fantastic game in just 15 minutes. He only had 5 points but that was 2-3 from the field and 1-1 from the line, to go with 7 rebounds (4 of which were offensive), 4 blocks, and 3 assists. That’s a well-rounded game. He’s definitely an option going into the next few games to have some more minutes at the five. This could definitely be an asset defensively and on the offensive end, too. Williams is one of Duke’s best options in the frontcourt and he hasn’t played much to date. Coach K has been experimenting with the lineup and what he provided today will almost definitely help his playing time.
Matthew Hurt, have yourself a night. Hurt went for 24 points, hitting six threes of eight attempted. That’s a huge jump in efficiency for him. Hurt’s sharpshooting skills will be desperately needed come ACC play, so this game is a terrific sign for Duke.
Another interesting note: Bellarmine has officially played its first game in Division I. To be frank, Duke should’ve beat a first-time-Division I opponent by a lot more, but this is a learning team and a win is a win is a win. Defensively, there are a lot of holes. Offensively, there are a lot of holes. This is a young team that plays younger than any team we’ve had in the last few years. It’s important to remember the ceiling as well as where we stand in general.
What was scheduled to be Duke’s next game against Elon on Sunday has been postponed. It’s not super clear what the situation is regarding Duke’s next game; it’d potentially come this Tuesday against #5 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If that game were to happen it’d be a blockbuster. More to come as we find out what the situation is with Illinois’s program, as their next game has been canceled.
A late-game surge couldn’t save Duke tonight in its loss to Michigan State, by a score of 75-69. Duke led early, with a ten-point lead as late as six minutes into the game. Midway through the first half, though, momentum shifted to favor the Spartans and Duke just couldn’t catch up. Sophomore Matthew Hurt led with 21 points, followed by freshmen Jalen Johnson and Jaemyn Brakefield with 11 each. Brakefield was Duke’s best bench scorer. Michigan State’s highest scorer was Rocket Watts, who had 20 points.
The game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. In the first half, Michigan State struggled early with fouls, and Duke took full advantage at the line. The scoring surge that put Michigan State ahead, though, was never reciprocated. While the margin was four at the half, in Michigan State’s favor, it grew to 15 within five minutes of play and the second half became a clawback effort for Duke. As a team, Duke shot 32.2% from the field compared to 42.3% on Michigan State’s side, with near-equal shot attempts. That was the biggest difference maker; the Blue Devils missed countless layups and misfired from distance (21.7% as a team with 23 attempts beyond the arc). Star scorer Jalen Johnson was 36.4% from the field compared to 100% against Coppin State on Saturday. The numbers speak for themselves.
Michigan State is an experienced team. They returned over half of their scoring from a year ago, and regained graduate senior Joshua Langford, who had a medical redshirt last year. This was a tough game for Duke going in, and the comeback effort is a positive sign in a very, very young team. Jordan Goldwire brought energy (and 2 steals) in the late second half off the bench, and the six-point end margin can be largely credited to his defense and final shot. The problem was consistency, on shooting, defensively, and with energy throughout the game. Fifteen minutes of this game were played very well tonight against a tough Tom Izzo team that played well. If Duke can get that number up, this season looks up from here.
A first loss puts the Blue Devils at 1-1 on the season. They’ll open the Mako Medical Classic, which honors Dr. Onye Akwari, this Friday at 7pm against Bellarmine University. The second game of the classic, against Elon, is in danger of cancellation after COVID-19 cases within the Elon program.
Duke’s season opener ended in a win over Coppin State in Cameron Indoor, 81-71, and fans let out a sigh of relief. There were points to celebrate and points to improve upon for the Blue Devils. The score reflects a tenacious effort by the Eagles. Coach Juan Dixon and his team came with a plan and they executed. They forced turnovers, hit from everywhere on the three-ball, and took away opportunities. Duke, of course, had something to do with the close margin but showed some grit, too, especially at the end. They were never able to put away Coppin State even with some major chances. There’s a lot to unpack with this game.
Jalen Johnson has arrived, everybody. The freshman stood out from the crowd, going for 19 points and 19 rebounds, and no, that’s not a typo. This too: he quite literally did not miss at 8-8 from the field. He was one of two shining stars for the game on our side and he showed everyone why he was so highly touted coming into college. He had 4 blocks, and I mean athletic backboard-slap blocks, too. Last, he led the team with 5 assists. That statline was accompanied by 7 turnovers, which is characteristic for a freshman but is concerning. Hopefully he can overcome that, because when he does, he’ll be unstoppable.
The surprise for this game was DJ Steward. Also a freshman, he was the game’s highest scorer with 24 points. He came off the bench and wasn’t predicted as a big scorer, but he showed out. He was impressively efficient, too, shooting 55% from the field and 44% from three. His debut ranks fourth in points scored by a Duke freshman out the gate, behind RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Marvin Bagley III. DJ Steward is among impressive company. But he, too, struggled with turnovers, marking 3 on the game, and that’s definitely a team mishap that we’ll get to later.
Turnovers. This game was a nightmare on ball maintenance. That’s a big reason for the thin margin in a season opener. Duke had 22 turnovers. Coach K was dismayed throughout the game. Tre Jones departed for the NBA after last season. He was a big reason why last year’s team was so secure in half-court offense. Without him, veterans like Jordan Goldwire and Joey Baker weren’t able to right the ship. Coppin State capitalized on our mistakes by scoring 28 off of It’s certainly something that the guys will need to work on.
Perimeter defense was not outstanding and Coppin State had a lot to do with that. In the second half, they shot 43.8% from three as a team. They hit 10 on the game, 7 of which came in the second half. Koby Thomas of the Eagles was 75% from three. Timely threes were a big reason why they just wouldn’t go away all game long, and Duke didn’t stop it til the last sixty seconds. Later this season, ACC Play will have no shortage of quality shooting teams, so Duke will have to overcome.
Overall, it was a big learning game, from a relatively close game situation (in what should’ve been a low pressure game) to turnovers galore. They’re a young team (no different from the last 6 years) so it’ll be a challenge, but we’re hoping they can pull together and keep up the energy.
Next game is Michigan State in the Champions’ Classic. MSU is without veteran Cassius Winston but certainly not without talent, and are ranked #9 in the country. The game will be in Durham.
Good win today to kick off the season. Bleed blue.
College basketball got underway for most teams unaffected by recent COVID cases, which sadly, does not include Duke. The scheduled opener for Wednesday against Gardner-Webb was cancelled due to a case within the opposing program. Of course, we hope everyone is okay there and we know teams on both sides are disappointed to miss a game.
The Blue Devils are case-free at the moment, and the de facto opener against Coppin State, scheduled for Saturday, is currently set to go on. Barring a surprise positive test or other issue, the Coppin State and Duke medical teams worked cohesively to ensure the game could be played safely. There was a positive test within the Coppin State program this week (not a player or coach, but personnel) but everyone else has tested negative multiple times to date. We trust that Duke will do everything possible to make sure this game is as safe as possible prior to tipoff.
And assuming we get to a tipoff… Duke will start today! It’s a wonderful feeling after a long offseason. If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last eight months, it’s that we have to stay in the moment and savor it because we don’t know what’s happening to the season next.
An interesting note about the Coppin State program: Maryland’s Juan Dixon is their coach. Dixon was a national champion in 2002 and Most Outstanding Player for that Final Four, too. He was also on the court for the legendary 2001 “Miracle Minute” game. Duke, led by the likes of Jason Williams, Shane Battier, and current associate head coach Nate James, overcame a double digit deficit in the final 60 seconds of the game. That game happened in College Park, but is well-remembered in Cameron. He’ll be back against Duke, this time on the sideline and in Cameron. There was no absence of dislike between Duke and Maryland before the Terps left the ACC.
We can’t wait to watch the game. You can see my season preview here, but we’ll be looking for veterans like Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore to lead while the young stars get their footing. You can catch the game on ACC Network Extra.
Duke Football plays today too, against Georgia Tech at 7pm. Tech is 2-5 to Duke’s 2-6, so hopefully the Blue Devils can get something going over in Atlanta.
The Duke Women’s Basketball season started with a bang on Wednesday. The Blue Devils took down the Longwood Lancers by a score of 94-64. On the scoring side, it was a collective effort: sophomore Jaida Patrick led with 21 points and 5 assists, followed by junior Miela Goodchild, who scored 16. Onome Akinbode-James had a monster game on the boards with 16.
The big story from the game was the beginning of the “Kara Era”: head coach Kara Lawson began her career as a head coach. Coach Lawson played for Pat Summit at Tennessee, then in the WNBA. She won a championship with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005 and was a 2007 All-Star, then won a gold medal in Tokyo in 2008 with Team USA. She was an analyst for ESPN for several years and the first female analyst to call an NBA game on the network in 2007. She’s a coach in 3×3 basketball for Team USA, and became the first female assistant coach to the Boston Celtics in 2019. Duke hired her to succeed Coach Joanne McCallie this summer.
Freshman Vanessa de Jesus stood out, starting at point. She had 13 points and 4 assists. Veteran Mikayla Boykin did not play due to knee soreness; she’s not expected to miss much time.
College basketball kicks off today, for both the men’s and women’s teams. Duke’s men’s team won’t be playing but you can look forward to a game on Saturday, assuming all goes well for both teams on the health and safety side of things.
Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram, both free agents this offseason, were given their contracts this week and their fantastic play is paying off, literally. Both were given max contracts by their respective teams on Monday and Tuesday.
Jayson got $195M for five years from the Boston Celtics. At 22 years old, Duke’s one-and-done superstar averaged 23.4 points per game last season and led the Celts to the Eastern Conference Finals. They fell to the Miami Heat in playoffs but came inches from the NBA Finals with Jayson, an All-Star, at the helm. He is absolutely one of the NBA’s best franchise players, especially under 25.
Over in New Orleans, Brandon got $158M for five years from the Pelicans. Just a year older than Tatum, Brandon won Most Improved Player for the 2020 season, as he beat his (relatively good) career stats and became an All-Star for the first time. New Orleans is a team to watch for the next five years: they drafted Zion Williamson in 2019 with the first pick, and are likely to resign him next year in free agency. Brandon Ingram and Zion are the franchise duo that NOLA is riding with.
College basketball starts today! Post on that coming soon.
Duke Basketball won’t get started as expected this Wednesday, after the scheduled opponent, Gardner-Webb, had a COVID-19 diagnosis within its program. The opener will now be this Saturday, November 28, against Coppin State in Durham.
Each player expressed dismay on social media, but postponements are expected as the NCAA scrambles to prevent and handle cases and exposures within college basketball.