Duke Survives Wake Forest in a Heart-Stopper, 71-70

What a game. What a crazy game. Duke came into the first half with little energy; Coach K described the guys as “giddy” afterwards but simply were outplayed by the Demon Deacons. However, with some crazy events and a bit of good fortune, Duke held on for a 71-70 win on Senior Night. Hats off to Wake Forest for by far the best game they’ve played in a really rough season. The defense wasn’t awful or something; Wake made some very difficult shots and we didn’t have our night but both teams just played their tails off. RJ Barrett was magnificent again and had 28 points.

As previously said, we were hit with a gut punch early on. The first half was played with very little energy; excluding RJ Barrett our team was 6-for-17 from the field. Jack White had two awesome three-pointers (he’d made 5 straight following the 28-streak before missing one) and RJ was getting double teamed and fouled hard (still had 15 points at intermission, though) and that was just about it, save a few plays, for the offense. Wake Forest, on the other hand, played very well and forced us to turn over the ball nine times in the first period of play. Cam Reddish was very limited during the game as 3 offensive charges took him out in the first period after just 8 minutes and a foul with about 9 minutes remaining kept him on the bench for much of the competition. He did contribute 6 points on a night it which he also struggled to put the ball in the basket.

Coming out of halftime, it wasn’t (at first) a patented Duke run but instead a Wake Forest one. Duke went up three on a Tre Jones layup, but Wake Forest immediately went on a 13-0 run. Duke was forced to take a timeout. Finally, that patented run was back and we scored 10 straight. Finally, some life in the building.

It was back-and-forth from there. The end of the game was a heartstopper but so was the injury to Tre Jones, who left for the locker room in the second half for a few very stressful minutes with a knee issue; he would, however return. Marques Bolden did not play for much of the second half because of a hip injury.

I don’t think that I breathed through the last few minutes. Tied 62-62, Alex O’Connell hit a three, a turnover was forced, Tre hit two free throws, and RJ and Brandon Childress traded buckets to give us the 5-point advantage with 1:24 to play. RJ missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Wake immediately responded with four free throws (all by Chaundee Brown). At 69-68 Duke, RJ made a shot that you just cannot teach from the paint to give us the three-point advantage.

This is where your heart rate goes up if you’re a Duke fan. Brandon Childress makes the layup to make a one-point game with seven seconds on the clock, and then something “inexcusable”, as Coach K put it, happened: Jack White, in attempting to change the inbounder, stepped over the line and turned the ball over right there, underneath the basket. Wake Forest had a shot to win it, and… well, I’ll just let you watch.

Oh. My. Goodness. That was too close.

It should be brought into consideration the number of injuries that we faced throughout the competition. Tre Jones took the energy in the building with him en route to a brief locker room visit in the middle of the second half, of which he would miss relatively significant minutes. Marques Bolden was unavailable (yet another post presence gone) for much of the game with a hip injury. Zion Williamson was yet again unavailable.

But it shouldn’t have been that close. Hopefully, a few days’ rest will get the Blue Devils ready for the upcoming rivalry rematch at UNC on Saturday.

Speaking of UNC and Zion Williamson, it’s been 5 (4.9999) games since we last saw Zion Williamson. UNC is yet to face him. Coach K said in his press conference that he “doesn’t think” Zion will be ready for UNC but later backtracked and said the decision will be made around Friday. Zion began “basketball activities” on Wednesday, but is yet to participate in full contact practice.

Bleed blue. The greatest rivals in basketball will meet again on Saturday. That’s must see. Look for my preview in the upcoming days.

Duke Obliterates Miami, 87-57

No Zion? No problem, at least for today as Duke took care of business at home against the Miami Hurricanes. RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish led a rejuvenated Blue Devil squad with 19 apiece; however, it was a more balanced attack today as Marques Bolden continued his excellent play with 15. Alex O’Connell had 11 points on 30 minutes; he’s certainly performed exceptionally in Zion Williamson’s absence.

One of the biggest highlights of this game was Tre Jones. He’s struggled offensively of late and completely botched a dunk but he certainly made up for it with his defense. He skipped lunch and instead feasted on Chris Lykes, the 5-7 (not a typo) Miami guard. Despite what he lacks physically, Lykes is one of the best guards in the ACC and before the game averaged 17 PPG, making him a top-10 lead scorer. Not anymore. Lykes failed to score until almost halfway through the second period and finished with four to go along with 2 assists. Additionally, the Miami point guard turned the ball over four times, most of them having to do with Tre Jones’ career-high 6 steals.

Another big highlight? Jack White not only broke his streak (28 straight misses from deep); he went 3-for-3 and the Crazies went absolutely nuts. Jack has struggled tremendously but his teammates never left his side and that’s what counts. He’s due to get very hot currently.

Sadly, it’s looking less and less likely that Zion Williamson plays again in Cameron. With the final home matchup with Wake Forest approaching quickly (two days from now) and Zion having been “not close” to playing Miami according to Coach K, it feels very unlikely. However, take a look at this video:

RJ’s dancing, he’s having fun. Zion looks downright angry. We all know that he wants to play; he loves the game as much as life itself and he’s anxious to get back but it all has to do with how he progresses. I’m all for him suiting up to play the last minute for his last game in Cameron. Just an idea.

Bleed blue. I’m so, so sad that I have to say this, but I do: the 2018-2019 Duke Men’s Basketball team will play *one last time* in Cameron tomorrow.

You’re welcome, Queen Bee. (it’s a Hamilton thing, I’m a total Hamilton nerd)

Duke Takes On Clemson to Start ACC Gauntlet

I am not kidding: this year’s ACC is a gauntlet, even for #1 Duke. Saturday night is the start of ACC play for the Blue Devils as they take on the Clemson Tigers at home. Though Duke is heavily favored, they are going to need to be ready as Clemson is battle-tested while Duke has not played since December 20, over two weeks. While it’s an advantage in how rested the will be (Clemson played Lipscomb 5 days ago), they haven’t played in a while and as hot as they were a couple weeks ago, they have a smaller range of experience.

Duke will definitely need to put a good defender on senior shooting guard Marcquise Reed. The shooting guard had an opportunity to depart for the NBA last year, however opted to stay for a final season. Reed missed a few games in December but has averaged 23 points in the two games since (20 and 26, respectively). He essentially is the Tigers’ offense and a name to watch.

Clemson also has a bit of a grudge in this game, though it would be worse were it a home game for the Tigers. Last year, after dismantling Auburn in the NCAA Tournament, Clemson was so sure they were going to sign Zion Williamson and enter a whole new world of college basketball glory. Well, we all know how that went (for Clemson, anyway). Zion was a hometown (well, state) kid and they were so, so sure. Clemson is probably feeling pretty resentful.

Speaking of Zion, the Tigers have to ever-pleasant job of trying to get some sort of monitor or control over him. Yeah, good luck with that. Zion’s a beast; he can do it all. His jump shot is improving and he controls the paint no matter how tall the guy that you put in front of him is. He is as light on his feet as a guard half his size yet he’s bigger than literally every NBA player other than one. His game keeps improving and something more that I love about him is that he’s one of the first guys on this team that will dive the floor for a loose ball.

Two guys that really stood out in our last game will look to match the intensity in Cameron Saturday night. Jack White and Tre Jones brought the fire in MSG against TTU, something that is essential as our young team grows up with out a starting senior. Tre Jones has played well beyond his years. Could it be a family trait? (*cough* Tyus *cough*)

Clemson, like most opponents that Duke has played and will play, has never seen any team like Duke before. The Tigers have lost three games to Creighton, #25 Nebraska, and #17 Mississippi State.

Here are the game notes.

Duke (11-1) vs. Clemson (10-3)

Date: Saturday, January 5, 2019

Time: 8:00pm

Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC 

Bleed blue. Krazies, pack Cameron tomorrow.

Lead Us, Captains.

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Source: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0R8V4N5Knk

Since November, when Duke shocked Kentucky at a score of 118-84, all the talk has been centered around two players whose play is difficult to believe. RJ Barrett can score from just about anywhere. Zion Williamson is a 285-pound monster who dances around the rim like a ballerina. Both are humble and unselfish; they’ll dive to the floor for loose balls and they’ll make the extra pass to an open teammate for a shot. 

But the difference for this team? These two aren’t a team by themselves. RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson will, if all goes well, lift Duke to new heights this season, alongside Cam Reddish, the overlooked star. On the other hand, who will keep us grounded? Who will lead the way, not statistically, but emotionally? Think Quinn Cook in 2015. Those freshmen, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones, didn’t win a championship by themselves.

So many people have said this: Duke is young. Which is true. Heck, we start four freshmen and a junior. But the veterans are very underrated. Jack White and Javin DeLaurier, co-captains, have been the facilitators for Duke.

They’re two of the best teammates you’ll find in the NCAA. They’re good friends; brought together by Duke Basketball despite growing up 16,069 miles apart. Now, they’re faced with one task: getting this young team through the season and to the ultimate goal: a national championship.

Bleed blue. We’ll be back soon to preview Duke’s first game after exams against Princeton.

Duke Takes On Yale Before Exams

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Zion Williamson runs in Duke’s 113-49 win over Stetson. Source: Duke Basketball Report https://www.dukebasketballreport.com/2018/12/5/18126894/a-yale-look-at-yales-odds-vs-duke-zion-reddish-barrett-jones-coach-k

Duke will get one last test before taking a week-long break (okay, well, one last basketball test) for exams as Yale visits in the “Brain Bowl”: these two universities are some of the premiers of the country. It’s also a rematch of the 2016 Round of 32 matchup. Duke won, 71-64, but the Bulldogs didn’t make it easy and will not this time around, either. Yale is actually very good this year and Duke can’t sleep on them. The old Ivy League that just couldn’t keep up is dead and gone.

Yale has already taken on and defeated an ACC foe in Miami– away from home, at that– a week ago. They lost to Vermont and Memphis but kept it pretty tight in both games. Hartford certainly gave us a headache with grit, experience, and three-point shooting. Yale is no different. In fact, they’re ranked 18th in the country in three-point percentage. With a stout interior defense, it’ll be the outside that Duke will need to focus on to keep the Bulldogs from staying in it. 

Duke, on the other hand, comes in 8-1, ranked third in the country, with easily the most talent in the country between the high-flying freshmen: RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish, as well as a good veteran corps in junior captains Javin DeLaurier and Jack White, both of whom are having the best seasons of their respective careers thus far

Game notes:

Duke vs. Yale

Date: Saturday, December 8th

Time: 5:30pm ET

Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC

TV: ESPN

Bleed blue.

Duke Rolls Against SDSU, 90-64

Duke kept rolling tonight against San Diego State today for their first win in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational to advance. RJ Barrett continued his streak of scoring 20+ points and led the Blue Devils with 20, but we executed a more balanced attack today than the past few games. Zion racked up an incredible five steals, showing his effort on the defensive end with a “quiet” (not really) evening of 13 points and 6 rebounds. Jack White had a career-high 12 points while Marques Bolden poured in 4 plus 4 rebounds. 

Cam Reddish returned from an injury that kept him out of most of last week’s contest against Eastern Michigan for a strong 16 points and 2 assists. Cam had some NBA-caliber stepbacks and highlight reel shots that got the attention on one of the most underappreciated projected lottery picks and top-3 recruits that I’ve ever seen (mostly because of his elite teammates). 

After a generally tumultuous week in college basketball, Duke further solidified its No. 1 status in the AP Poll. Duke leapfrogged Kansas and Gonzaga after starting the season off with a very, very, very big bang in the win over then-#2 Kentucky

Bleed blue. Duke will return for a high-profile battle with No. 8 Auburn in the semifinals for the Invitational. 

Duke Rides Shutdown First Half to 84-46 Win over Eastern Michigan

A brilliant first half. A hard-playing team that made just about every Duke fan proud. Oh, and, by the way, Zion put on a dunk show. Yeah, this was a pretty fun game. Duke smacked Eastern Michigan 84-46 as Zion Williamson led the way with 21 points and 9 rebounds. RJ Barrett came a close second with 20. Javin DeLaurier had one of his best games in a while, scoring 10 points alongside his 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and block. In addition, a usually foul-prone Javin only had one foul in this entire game, which came in the second half. Jack White also performed well, matching his co-captain with 10 points.

Yeah, I lied a little bit when I said Zion put on a dunk show. They all put on an in-the-paint clinic. Dunking, layups, tip-ins: S/o to Zion, Javin, and Jack for controlling the paint! Duke scored most of their points down low. I did not lie, though, when I said Zion dunked. He’s so much more than a dunker, don’t get me wrong, but it’s EPIC when he does. However, he has non-dunk highlights, too: I sometimes wonder if this guy took dance lessons or something. He’s 285 pounds of muscle, yet he has the feet of a ballerina. How it’s humanly possible I don’t know, but you can see it below:

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find tape of an amazing lay-in from the second half, but Duke Basketball Report has highlight reels of RJ and Zion, so check those out!

Cam Reddish was limited in playing time because of a sore groin, but Coach K said he’s fine and it was just a precaution. He would’ve played had it been closer. Freshman Joey Baker was the only guy on the team not suited up, which basically solidifies the notion that he will redshirt this year.

Bleed blue. Duke prepares for San Diego State in Maui this Monday. That’ll be 5pm ET. Go Duke!