Duke's 69-65 win over Virginia Monday night looked different than the loss it suffered to Clemson Saturday in more ways than one.
The key for the Blue Devils, the players and coach Mike Krzyzewski said, was heightened effort and team contribution.
But visually, and in the way it preserved all of Duke's players' stamina, the biggest difference was the full-squad substitution strategy that was employed for most of the game.
"We have the team to do it, honestly, because we're so deep and we're so athletic," freshman Matt Jones said. "We don't miss a beat with either group so the five-on-five, it just makes you go hard the four minutes - we had a motto, 'Just win the four minutes,' - then somebody comes in behind you."
Jones, who made his first career start against the Cavaliers, was a part of the first group of five Krzyzewski put on the court.
The freshman, Amile Jefferson, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Quinn Cook, made up the first group which stayed in the game until the 16:46 mark when the coach substituted Marshall Plumlee, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston and Rasheed Sulaimon.
After a rough three ACC games that left Duke at 1-2 in conference, Krzyzewski said the all-in, all-out strategy came from taking a closer look at his team.
"I'm not saying we'll platoon like that all the time," he said. "We're going to play more guys. I've had to get more observant with my team, I'll take responsibility, full responsibility, for those first three games, (…) all of that is on me, all of it is on me. Part of it is not seeing some things."
The Blue Devils exhaustion due to size deficit was one of the observations that provoked the veteran coach to try dividing playing time the way he did.
"One of the things is (that) at times we get tired because we're not as big as some teams, so getting more guys in would help," he said. "Once we got into conference play, the defense picks up and the physicality picks up and so sets that we were running before, people scouted them and also stopped, so we ran more motion offense tonight."
Cook agreed that the look provided the opponent with a game-time surprise in respect to how matchups on both sides of the ball went.
"It was good," he said. "Everybody got a chance to get in there and (the Cavaliers) weren't accustomed to seeing the same guys on the court. I think teams scout us for just Rodney (Hood), me and Jabari (Parker) playing the whole game and when you have Matt (Jones) and Tyler (Thornton) come off the bench and contribute defensively and offensively it throws teams off a little bit. I think we did a good job of that today."
Duke made a full-platoon style substitution twice during each half - at the 14:13 and 10:32 marks during the first and 15:31 and 13:44 marks in the second - with timing that provided all of the roster the opportunity to keep its bodies fresh.
At the 8:34 mark and 8:33 mark in the first and second halves, respectively, Krzyzewski put four new players on the court.
Jones and Jefferson both said that the substitution pattern had the potential to shake up the offense's standard leading scorers. Parker, who averages 19.5 points per game, was one Blue Devil who scored less than his standard with eight against Virginia, but the team's offense had points coming from other places.
"We knew we were going to play a lot of players and give everybody a chance," Jefferson said. "Tonight was us starting to fight as Duke and as one unit. We need everybody, tonight was a team win. You can't look at the scoreboard and say one person carried us, it was everybody. Everyone came in (during) the minutes they played and fought and I think that's something that we need to do going forward."
The unit worked, particularly well as two of Duke's top three scorers came from the bench.
The night brought Jefferson his first double-double, with ten points and a game-high 15 rebounds, while Hood added 14 points. Sulaimon lead all scorers with 21.
Jones had four points in his first start, all off free throws. He had a team-high number of attempts at the line, which came he said from his effort toward the team goal of trying to draw fouls off Virginia's Joe Harris.
The numbers reflect how the freshman felt that although the lineup swap may have held potential for inconsistency, it was a method that benefitted aggressive play just as it perhaps hindered the ability to settle into a shot for some.
"It can (cause rhythmic difficulty)," he said. "Not for guys like me because I try to bring toughness and just get in where I fit in, but for (Parker) and Hood, probably so. But it was new to everybody so we're getting used to it. But it was definitely a good start."