#10 Duke Falls to #6 Illinois, 83-68

#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.

Bleed blue.

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