Game Notes: Duke at Notre Dame

Duke travels up North this week to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are in a down year after losing veterans Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, but of course there’s no down game in the ACC and these guys are nothing to sleep on. Notre Dame does face a four-game losing streak at the moment.

Duke Blue Devils at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Date: Monday, January 28, 2019

Time: 7:00pm ET

Venue: Edmund P. Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center

TV: ESPN

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Leading Scorer, Duke: RJ Barrett, 23.9 PPG

It should also be noted that Zion Williamson is literally right behind him at 21.7 PPG.

Leading Scorer, Notre Dame: John Mooney, 14.4

Streak, Duke: W3

Streak, Notre Dame: L4

Bleed blue.

Duke Comes Back to Beat Gritty Ga. Tech, 66-53

The score doesn’t tell the story of a game that was truly two in one this Saturday afternoon. Duke defeated Georgia Tech 66-53 after trailing by as many as eight in the second half. Zion and RJ yet again combined for over 40 points. In the first half, especially towards the end, the shots just weren’t falling. You can credit Tech’s defense: they defended the basket well and it took Duke a little bit to figure out a type of zone of the likes they hadn’t seen. They weren’t going to let RJ and Zion bully them in the paint and were willing to sacrifice some outside defense. After a timeout taken by Coach K and a Zion Williamson dunk, however, you could tell that the Jackets’ lead wouldn’t last and the momentum switched remarkably.

With 18 minutes to go in the second half, Duke trailed by 8 and took a timeout. After that timeout, Duke outscored Georgia Tech 39-18. Zion Williamson had some SportsCenter-worthy dunks (as per usual) to get the crowd into it and in just those 18 minutes Duke was able to rout the Yellow Jackets. We do need to remember, though, that

The big storyline today was the return of Tre Jones. We’re very happy to see that Tre was comfortable and even started and played 35 minutes. His shoulder didn’t seem to affect him. It was certainly Duke’s worst offensive outing of the season as the connection wasn’t automatic but it got going in the final minutes with a 26-point turnaround after falling behind by 8 (Tech scored the last 5 points of the game; the lead was, until then, 18).

The three-point shooting continues to be a big issue for the Blue Devils. Jack White has not produced of late and Cam Reddish hasn’t been as effective as we’d like him to be. RJ Barrett’s shot is still a work in progress, as versatile as he is. As long as the production on the defensive end is still high I see it as a smaller issue, but that’s something that needs to change come March. We’re getting in the the thick of the season and the two guys that we will look to are Jack White and Cam Reddish to knock those down.

I’d like to give a shoutout to our coaching staff today for supporting Coaches vs. Cancer’s Suits and Sneakers Week Campaign. Coach K himself wore the off-white Air Force 1’s while the assistant coaches repped Brotherhood member Kyrie.

Bleed blue.

Tennessee Jumps Duke for #1 in AP Poll

As both remaining undefeated teams went down (Virginia and Michigan) this weekend, as well as multiple upsets, the AP Poll’s top spots were a question mark leading into this week. Well, question answered: former #1 Duke fell one spot as the Tennessee Volunteers took over on top. The rest of the poll was pretty scrambled as well- #7 Kansas went down, Michigan lost to Wisconsin, Virginia fell to Duke, and Auburn couldn’t pull it out against Kentucky.

Anyone’s Game

The top spot was quite obviously the most contested spot, as multiple teams made their case this week:

Duke– A loss at home to Syracuse at the beginning of the week wasn’t flattering, though marred by just terrible odds. Outside shots haven’t fallen all week, especially against the Syracuse zone that forces those. Tre Jones’ injury and Cam Reddish’s illness were no help, either. It all came together, though, against Virginia: despite a lack of a point guard, the offense rolled very well and the defense was about as good as you get when missing your central piece in Tre Jones. UVA’s pack-line defense was no match for the unstoppable duo of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. Jones’ return is still not at all certain but most definitely more positive than most imagined when it happened, and no one is going to rush it. However, a win against a very, very good Virginia team showed that even without a key piece, these Blue Devils are arguably the most dangerous team in the country, not to mention with.

Tennessee– The Vols are on a roll in the SEC and are proving themselves one of the best teams in the field this year. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams aren’t just the best players on the team: they’re the emotional leaders. There isn’t as much starpower in Knoxville as others may have, but this is a well put-together team that showed resilience against Alabama in a win that went down to the final buzzer.

Virginia– Virginia, despite having lost to Duke this week, is looking about as good as ever. And get this: their offense is actually good! Kyle Guy, in spite of his hair, is a dangerous offensive player. However, there’s no stability for the ‘Hoos until they get past that first round in the tournament: saying that they shouldn’t be defined by that loss means saying that regular season outweighs postseason, and there are fired coaches that can tell you so.

All three of these teams received votes for the top spot this week in the AP Poll.

Bleed blue.

Recruiting: Isaiah Stewart Picks Washington

Unfortunately, Duke has lost yet another recruit for 2020 as Isaiah Stewart has selected the University of Washington. Congratulations to him and we hope for the best in his further endeavors. Duke currently stands with just three recruits, a rather small number in comparison to previous years but as many often overlook, Duke will almost definitely have Joey Baker (redshirt) and possibly even Tre Jones for next year. Vernon Carey, also, is a positionless force and we’re excited to see how he affects the Blue Devils for the incoming year.

As for the undecideds, #7 overall recruit (247Sports) and PF Matthew Hurt is undecided but Duke is a favorable option for him (though he hasn’t cut his list much at all). Duke has been cut from the list of Jaden McDaniels and is not looking likely for Precious Achiuwa.

Bleed blue. Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Duke heads up to Pittsburgh as Coach K meets former Associate Head Coach Jeff Capel on Tuesday at 9pm.

Zion Williamson “Came to Play”

Zion Williamson will be one of the main speculations for NBA fans in the next year until he steps onto the court for the first time: essentially, they want on their teams what we have on our team. Previously this week on ESPN’s “The Jump”, Scottie Pippen suggested that Zion Williamson “shut it down” the rest of this year in order to preserve his health for the 2019 NBA Draft (we all know that he’s a lock for first pick at this point).

Zion didn’t like that much! When encountered about the prospect after Saturday’s win against Virginia, Williamson vehemently denied any idea of doing so:

I can’t just stop playing. I’d be letting my teammates down. I’d be letting Coach K down. I’d be letting a lot of people down.

If I was going to sit out, I wouldn’t have gone to college. I’m thankful that Coach K gave me the opportunity.

Zion Williamson

Well, that’s great news for us and not-so-great news for literally everybody else. Man, this team is special.

Bleed blue.

An Undermanned Duke Falls to Syracuse In OT, 95-91

This game looked absolutely awful from the start, and that’s how it ended out in Durham on Monday as #1 Duke was defeated by Syracuse in overtime, 95-91. From the moment it was announced that Cam Reddish wouldn’t start due to illness, especially after his late game heroics at Florida State, it certainly didn’t look like it was going to be a good night. That was confirmed: nothing seemed to go the Blue Devils’ way, and this loss is the least of their problems at this point. Zion Williamson scored 34, but it wasn’t enough as Tyus Battle had 30 for the Orange.

Tre Jones Injury

It doesn’t take a basketball whiz to figure this out: everything fell apart the minute Tre Jones left the game. Tre was having an awesome game– 4 steals in just 6 minutes of play– before colliding with Syracuse’s Frank Howard and leaving the game immediately. Cameron went silent. Tre is the foundation of this team: his on-ball defense anchors a very efficient defense for Duke (4 steals in 6 minutes!) and he’s a floor general on the other side of the court. Having lost him meant a huge blow for the Blue Devils, and it showed- from that point on, Syracuse outscored the Blue Devils 39-35 and we could not get rolling on defense.

Tre Jones suffered an AC joint separation and is out indefinitely. This means, essentially, that his collarbone has separated from his shoulder blade. Coach Krzyzewski said that there is no sign of breakage on the bones, which clears a big hurdle return-wise. You can learn more about AC joint separation here, but long-story-short, he’s in a lot of pain and return spans anywhere from 2 weeks to much worse.

The second half was just a fistfight, and despite having “fought like crazy” according to Coach K, shots were not falling at all, especially from three. Over the course of the game, Duke shot under 21% from beyond the arc despite taking 43 of them. Jack White had an off-game and just couldn’t hit, going 0-10 all on three-point shots and fouled out in 42 minutes of play. Duke actually shot less two-point shots than they did three-point shots, something a Syracuse zone can do to you. Syracuse, on the other hand, shot 44% from beyond the arc, something they haven’t been able to do all season long.

I feel like I haven’t payed enough attention to this side of the story: Zion went off for 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks. RJ had 23 points, 9 assists, and 16 rebounds (that’s literally as close as you can get to a triple-double). Alex O’Connell had a career night with 16 points and 2 steals. Marques Bolden had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks. All of these guys had great games and I’m sure they’re not going to care now, but it’s still worth noting.

Cam Reddish was also out for this game, showing flu-like symptoms. In all honesty, take away two starters, one being the foundation on both sides of the court for Duke and one being the hot three-point shooter (hint there) coming off his best game yet, give Syracuse hot hands and give one of our best shooters a severe off night? You’ve got yourself this. Losing at home to Syracuse, of all teams, isn’t fun at all but the bright side is that it’s not as though we lost without a few scales tipping their way and at this point, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with.

#PrayForTre. That’s my takeaway from this game.

Bleed blue. Please, #PrayForTre.

Duke Returns Home for Syracuse on Monday

Duke’s come-from-behind win against Florida State will have to be put aside for now as we get ready for a Monday night contest with Syracuse in Cameron. Syracuse is very up-and-down this season, having wins against against current #16 Ohio State and Clemson, yet lost just two days ago to Georgia Tech by 14 at home and Oregon by 15. This game really depends on who shows up for the Orange.

Okay, we’ll let this one in. Now we have to start looking at Syracuse.

One big question mark left from Florida State is definitely the status of Zion Williamson. A late first half eye poke kept him out of the entire second half against Florida State and his availability uncertain. Zion is a huge factor, and the stats against Florida State shows it: Zion left with 1:26 left. Florida State, though they had started, immediately came roaring back to take the lead at the half after quite recently being down by 7. Duke had 12 offensive boards in the first half; in the second without Zion, we had three. Total. Marques Bolden is a huge reason why we won as he saved us with defensive rebounds.

Zion reportedly had “double vision”, though how is not specified, and it apparently cleared after the game. Coach K said that he will “hopefully” play against Syracuse, but there’s certainly no guarantee.

Duke will have to make it work against a good Syracuse team if Zion isn’t available, but the Florida State game is a good testament to the toughness of this team that can get through without him if necessary- toughness that we’ll need against Jim Boeheim, whose team always likes to play tough and sloooow; they will want to keep the possession numbers low to keep the point totals low.

Syracuse may be one of the worst teams in the country at shooting, but their defense is tough. Syracuse simply isn’t good enough to keep up with Duke offensively, so defense is really key and will have to hold a perfect storm to keep in it. If Zion’s in, however, Syracuse has absolutely no answers, period.

Game Notes

Duke Blue Devils vs. Syracuse Orange.

Time: 7:00pm EST

Date: January 14, 2018.

Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC

TV: ESPN

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Bleed blue.