Blue Devils cruise behind strong defense and bench
DURHAM, N.C. — Duke is just three games into the season and a theme is already developing: defense wins the day.
The Blue Devils used their defense to dismantle Central Arkansas on Tuesday, 105-54, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. As expected, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad began implementing its pressure defense right from the start, and aside from a couple early buckets from the visitors, it set the tone almost immediately.
Duke forced 15 turnovers in the first half, including 11 steals, resulting in 15 points off the Central Arkansas miscues. For the game, Duke forced 21 turnovers, resulting in 26 points. But much like it was in Duke’s last contest with Colorado State, it wasn’t just all about turnovers.
"Just take them out of easy buckets, get loose balls and keep them out of transition then that would be great for us," Jack White said of Duke's relentless defensive approach.
It was also about disrupting Central Arkansas’ flow on offense, which ultimately resulted in a 21.7-percent shooting effort from the visitors. Not much changed in the second half for Central Arkansas, as Duke’s relentless defense won the day, even after a hot start in the second half from the Bears, who made six of their first nine shot attempts.
For the game, Duke held Central Arkansas to just 35.3-percent from the field.
Defensively, the Blue Devils got a huge effort from freshman Wendell Moore, Jr., who registered four steals in the game, while fellow freshman Cassius Stanley also posted three steals. Junior Jordan Goldwire also picked the Bears’ pockets three times on the night.
While defense was certainly one of the keys to Duke’s blowout victory, Krzyzewski also saw his team's offense come to life.
"I think the main thing is for guys to play free and be aggressive," White added. "Just trust your instincts and let defense fuel the offense.
"Extra passes and turning good shots into great shots. That’s been an emphasis for us. Just playing good basketball. Everyone being assertive."
Duke shot 56.8-percent from the floor, including 50-percent from 3-point range. Much like last season, the Blue Devils’ inability to consistently hit long range shots has already been called into question.
But, freshman Matthew Hurt finally answered some of the doubters by connecting on 3-of-3 attempts from long range off the bench for the Blue Devils. Five others found the bottom of the net from deep for Duke as well, including Jack White, whose struggles from beyond the arc have been well documented dating back to last season.
Hurt had his best showing as a Blue Devil after struggling in the first two contests, which prompted Krzyzewski to bring the talented big man off the bench for the first time in his young career. Hurt responded with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. It was by far his most complete effort of the season.
The same can be said for fellow freshman Vernon Carey, Jr., who finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. He looked more comfortable on the floor than he has at any other point in his first two college contests.
"My mindset from pregame and just working out a little extra before the game, I feel like that just benefitted me in the game," Carey said.
Stanley continued his outstanding play, scoring in double-figures yet again, dropping 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting. He was disruptive all game long on defense as well, finishing with three blocks in addition to his three steals.
Tuesday night was also all about a bench performance that Duke fans have not seen in a long, long time. Duke posted 55 bench points, including 31 in the first half alone. Krzyzewski went 11 deep during regular action (not mop up duty), with nine of those playing double-digit minutes.
Only Tre Jones did not reach double figure minutes (9) after sustaining an injury midway through the first half.
The sophomore hit his head on an opponent's head that left him facedown on the court. Krzyzewski and Duke trainer Jose Fonseca tended to Jones for several minutes before he walked off the floor and took a spot at the end of the bench.
"He got hit right on the temple," Krzyzewski said. "He was pretty good at halftime. We decided not to play him. He looks pretty good now. I don’t think it will be a problem."
He did not see anymore action, but finished the day with seven points and two assists.
Javin DeLaurier, who was one of the first off the bench for Krzyzewski, scored 11 points, while grabbing eight rebounds and registering two assists.
In addition to his three steals, Goldwire notched nine points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor. He also recorded a team-high four assists and grabbed three rebounds.
Goldwire was aggressive in attacking the basket, scoring all but three of his points off the drive.