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)

Undermanned Duke Falls to #20 Virginia Tech, 72-77

The basketball gods have been unkind to us of late.

  1. RJ Barrett was dealing with a stomach issue but still played 36 minutes (he usually plays 40/40).
  2. Zion Williamson out with the knee sprain.
  3. Cam Reddish injured mid-game and didn’t look the same but still grinded on.
  4. Same with both Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier.

That sounds so fun, doesn’t it?

Duke fell to Virginia Tech for the second loss in three games on Tuesday. Hats off to Virginia Tech– they played very well and we didn’t. RJ Barrett saw 2 to 3 defenders at almost every touch, under the weather in the first place, and the defense is still imperfect without Zion. RJ, Cam, and Marques Bolden combined for 52 but it wasn’t enough.

If there was one glaring issue on defense it was the strong side corner. That’s a spot you just don’t leave open, and it was left often when the ball went inside to a very strong big man in Kerry Blackshear. Cam Reddish said that they “weren’t rotating fast enough” and Coach K spoke similarly. The defense in general is an area of focus in the absence of Zion Williamson whose return is still unclear; he is yet to be upgraded from day-to-day.

Bleed blue. It doesn’t feel good, but a this rough 6-game stretch, especially with half of those played without Zion, is over. We have Miami on Saturday.

Duke Puts World on Notice, Routs #2 Kentucky, 118-84

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Zion Williamson all smiles after scoring 28 in Duke’s 118-84 rout of Kentucky. Source: SBNation https://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2018/11/7/18070886/duke-vs-kentucky-recap-final-score-zion-williamson-rj-barrett

I must say, I had faith in our squad, sure,  but not this much faith! In an unprecedentedly smashing win, Duke embarrassed number-two ranked Kentucky by thirty-four, 118-84. Other than after a few minutes at 11-8, after which a 9-0 run made it 20-8 you kept thinking “it’s got to get close at some point”. It didn’t. People are at loss for words. RJ Barrett scored 33. Zion Williamson scored 28. This is a very clear testament: Duke can score on anybody. Kentucky’s defense has been bad in the past at the beginning of the year, but not just anybody is going to be able to put up 118 on a top-2 team.

Strengths: Um, All of Them?

I have to say, Duke just about dominated every aspect of this game. There were some foul issues early: Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden, and occasionally Zion Williamson were called for fouls but in this game, honestly, sometimes it felt like standing in the lane was a foul. I can’t complain, though. But the strengths abounded: Duke made Kentucky a half-court team, plain and simple. They dominated transition: we scored at will in transition situations. Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish got to demonstrate their games in so many ways. All of them got in the paint, all of them took perimeter shots, all of them got jumpers. Those three are extremely versatile players. And shoutout, Jack White! Jack is willing to do the dirty work behind the scenes that make this team look great. He had an excellent game with 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. He doesn’t score in the 20s and 30s as consistently as some of his teammates might, but he gets it done.

This Won’t Happen Every Time

I want to note that this will (probably) not happen every game. There will be the UVAs of the world, with their stifling defense. A freshman will have a bad game. But this team is really, really good, and they told the world Tuesday night. Did I mention this? Oh. My. Goodness. This is gonna be one fun season.

#TheBrotherhood Reacts

Duke showed an excellent sense of what #TheBrotherhood means last night. Let’s see how the rest of them reacted.

Duke Scores 132 in Annihilation of Ferris State

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RJ Barrett (5) and Zion Williamson (1). Source: SI https://www.si.com/nba/2018/08/20/zion-williamson-rj-barrett-impressive-duke-basketball-canada-preseason-tour

The fury ran wild today in Cameron Indoor as Duke’s young team absolutely ravaged Ferris State, 132-48, a team that fought hard but failed to contain Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett (and the rest of the Blue Devils), who combined for a total of 55. These youngsters have a special talent for sharing the ball, as they racked up a total of 29 assists and Tre Jones neared triple-double territory with 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists. Obviously, the stat lines were through the roof. A quick synopsis: RJ Barrett was the high point-scorer with 32, Zion Williamson had 10 rebounds to accompany his 25, and big men Marques Bolden and Antonio Vrankovic picked up 15 and 10 points, respectively. Cam Reddish had 20 points as well to go with his 5 assists and 2 steals. Again: that stat sheet was packed. 

Lead Us, Captains

Coach K officially announced two captains and, in my opinion, excellent choices, to lead the 2018-2019 squad: Javin DeLaurier and Jack White. These two guys have shown dedication and heart through the years, and, let’s be honest, they’ve shown dedication and heart to a lot of teammates. Javin and Jack deserve this role; they’re roommates and have emerged as leaders for this group from the very beginning of the year. Congratulations to those two.

Bleed blue. 10 days to the Champions’ Classic!

Intro Video, Player Intros, Top Plays and More from Countdown to Craziness

It was an epic night as we got a glimpse of our team in a real scrimmage for the first time since August. The hype video got the night started, then the players took the floor for the first time in uniform, and the Blue-White Scrimmage began.

First of all, the Intro Video is fire. Literally.

If that doesn’t get you crazie hyped for the season, I don’t know what will. The players showed off their dance moves, and even some of their own music (go, Brennan Besser!):

Then we got to the actual scrimmage. This video has the top plays, and here’s a hint: “That’s gonna be on SportsCenter!”

It’s also got an interview (Tre Jones and Javin DeLaurier), and apparently, Javin yelled “Chicken” when he made a three-point shot. Find out what that was all about above.

The countdown to Countdown is over, but the Countdown to the Classic is ON! The Champions’ Classic is on November 6th at 9:30pm vs. Kentucky. Bleed blue.

Image featured on homepage is property of Duke Athletics. I do not own that photograph.

Breaking: Alex O’Connell’s Surgery a Success, Should Start Practice in September

Alex O’Connell, who fractured an orbital bone in the third minute against Ryerson last week, underwent successful surgery to repair it and should start practice come September. O’Connell was hit in the eye against Ryerson and was unable to return.

The Duke Basketball eye specialist on the medical staff has been awfully busy this past year: Wendell Carter probably lost his contacts fifty times during a game last season, Marvin Bagley, III, had a scratched cornea during the game against Michigan State (which they won anyway, which is amazing), and now this. Maybe teams are conspiring to poke everybody’s eyes out so they can win by default. I don’t know, honestly. Injuries have been a problem for years now: Harry Giles’ knee, Marques Bolden’s knee, and we will never, ever, ever, forget Kyrie Irving’s toe. That ‘chip was ours.

 

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Alex O’Connell. Source: NBC Sports.

Our injury list continues to decline: Tre Jones (hip) and Cam Reddish (groin) are on the mend alongside O’Connell. Bleed blue, Duke fans. I woke up and it was cold this morning. At least that means basketball season is approaching (I hate the cold).