Game Notes: vs. Boston College

Duke faces yet another challenger that won’t bring back great memories for those of us around last year: the top-ranked Blue Devils were toppled by the Eagles in a shocking upset. It wasn’t a random thing: we had our flaws but Boston College shot miraculously well especially from range. This year, though, is a different story. BC does not return Jerome Robinson, who was easily the leader throughout the season and in the game with 24 points at BCV, but they do still have both Jordan Chatman and Ky Bowman, who combined for 52 points last year.

However, again, this is not the same Duke team coming into this game. The 2017-2018 Blue Devils were not the most profound defensive team at the time of the loss (we still love you guys, but let’s be honest). Different story this time: we’re currently ranked fourth in the country in defensive efficiency as well as tenth in the country in offensive efficiency. With those two statistics in mind as well as the atmosphere that is Cameron Indoor Stadium, always a difference maker, BC faces a challenge much different than last year.

Also, there happen to be these two guys named Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. Not that they’ll be a factor or anything.

Game Notes

Boston College Eagles at Duke Blue Devils

Date: Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Time: 7:00 PM ET

Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC

TV: ESPN

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Bleed blue.

Duke Annihilates St. John’s, 91-61

Duke fans knew coming into this game that St. John’s was dangerous. Shamorie Ponds, especially: last year, he put up 33 in an upset in MSG against the Blue Devils. Tre Jones decided that history would not repeat.

Zion Williamson had 29, Cam Reddish had 16, and Duke shut down St. John’s main offensive weapons to get a smashing win in Cameron over the St. John’s Red Storm, 91-61. Cam Reddish was the spark early on with 11 first half points, and especially as the game went on, Zion couldn’t be contained. He stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points on 13-17 shooting, 4 blocks, 5 steals, and 6 rebounds. Believe me, there are highlights to come. Good Gods of Basketball, this isn’t fair.

Also, he, by himself, beat all of NC State today. Just sayin’.

The anchor of this win, however amazing Zion was, had to have been Tre Jones’ lockdown defense. Shamorie Ponds, the dangerous point guard that dropped 33 last year against Duke in an upset in MSG, did not hit a shot in the first half. He finished the day 3-11 from the field. This is no knock on Ponds as we’ve seen the great scorer that he is; it was all Tre today and he set the standard for the rest of the team.

St. John’s came in with an aggressive mentality, which showed during the game. In the first half, a flagrant 1 was actually assessed to St. John’s Marvin Clark and the physicality continued throughout the game, but the team handled it well, an important experience come late February and March.

The highlights (still to come) were great and all, but my favorite play of the game was when the ball went loose and every player on the court wearing blue and white dove to the ground at some point to get it. The call did not end up going in our favor as the referee called a held ball, mostly in order to keep the play under control. What are likely to be the #1 and #2 picks in the draft don’t care about getting the next highlight play or 40 point game: they care about the team win, even when it gets gritty, and that’s what makes them great.

Now, finally, for the highlights:

Duke Cruises by Notre Dame, 83-61

Zion Williamson scored 26 along with 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, RJ Barrett had 17, and Duke cruised by Notre Dame in South Bend without too much trouble. The Blue Devils garnered a 17-2 lead early and never really looked back. Notre Dame did fight the whole game, an admirable show of perseverance.

A lot of the news in college basketball this week were about how Duke was unable to shoot the three; Duke came out of the bat with 2 shots from distance, making both, an continued to shoot well and intelligently with well-placed shots on a 52.6% mark overall (10-19). Tre Jones shot well and very efficiently, his mark at 9 points on 4-6. Alex O’Connell played well, getting 7 points in 9 minutes of play. Both players made at least one three pointer.

The defensive effort was impressive as Notre Dame, a generally good shooting team with a lane presence in double-double machine John Mooney, shot just above 34% overall and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Mooney had a good game but shot a low 4-15, like many of his teammates that scored on the higher end.

Notre Dame tried to stay in it and even got it to 32-23 at one point but that hope was all but squashed by a Zion Williamson 3-pointer. From that point the lead stayed in the 20 range and didn’t move much.

Now, we get to the highlights! Zion had a Superman-like block (okay, it was technically goaltending, but it didn’t get called).

Bleed blue. Duke returns to Cameron next weekend to take on St. John’s.

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.

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.