DURHAM — Exciting basketball was Rodney Hood’s preferred way to describe the way the Blue Devils would play when asked this preseason.
After the first 40 minutes of the 2012-13 season, that description appears spot on.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski had anointed Hood and freshman Jabari Parker as the centerpieces of the offense, and it was quickly apparent why that is so in No. 4 Duke’s 111-77 win against Davidson. That point total is the highest for the Blue Devils in an opener since pouring in 121 on N.C. Central in 2007.
Even more impressive than the final score was the way it was achieved. The Blue Devils shot 70.4 percent from the floor for the game.
“Did we shoot better from the field than from free throws?” Krzyzewski said, wondering aloud as he scanned the box score. “Yeah, we did. We were hot.”
No two Blue Devils were hotter than Parker and Hood, both of whom finished with 22 points for the new-look Duke (1-0), with Hood adding nine rebounds to go along with Parker’s six. Coming out of a timeout late in the game, Hood let Parker know about his rebounding advantage.
That would be about the only point of critique for Parker’s performance.
Duke’s dynamic duo was hot from the jump, with Parker and Hood shooting 11-of-12 for 29 points in the first half and looked every bit as unstoppable on the court as it appeared on the score sheet. The 6-foot-8 wings were just as versatile as advertised, scoring from all points on the floor.
Parker opened the scoring for Duke by taking the ball at the top of the key and creating enough space for himself to fire off a shot at the right elbow, which swished through. On the Blue Devils next possession, he found Amile Jefferson under the basket, and he put in the gift for two easy points.
Parker took a defensive rebound off an errant Davidson 3 on Duke’s ensuing possession and finished with a 3 of his own at the other end to give the Blue Devils a quick 7-3 lead less than two minutes into the game.
The Blue Devils (1-0) continued scoring at that torrid pace for most of the first half, finishing the first 20 minutes with a 59-39 lead (just for comparison’s sake, last year’s team scored 67 points – total – in the win over Davidson and posted 62 points in a win at Boston College).
The Blue Devils ran plenty of isolation plays for Hood and Parker, giving them the ball at the top of the key, drifting down to the elbow, and just saying ‘go.’ It worked, as the Davidson guards couldn’t keep in front of them, especially with the new emphasis on hand-check fouls. Hood displayed a particularly effective finishing touch around the rim, as many of his 13 points came close to the basket.
“We have so many looks when you initiate from the elbow,” Hood said. “Sometimes we might rip through and go, sometimes we might go for a dribble handoff, sometimes there might be a ball screen. If we’re sharp in our movements, we’ll be hard to guard.”
It wasn’t just the Hood and Parker show, though, Duke posted 16 assists against just four turnovers. Rasheed Sulaimon, who entered the game at the 15:40 mark, looked more like the Rasheed Sulaimon most expected after his freshman season, posting 20 points, shooting 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and collecting seven rebounds. One of his rebounds started a break, which came back to him at the other end from Tyler Thornton and was finished with a 3-pointer to put Duke ahead 29-17 near the midway mark of the opening half. A few minutes later, Sulaimon hit a 3 over a brief Wildcat zone to extend the lead to 41-21.
“Rasheed had a heck of a game, there was a thing we went to that they had a hard time stopping,” Krzyzewski said. “He either scored or got his teammate a bucket. It was a little bit like the Ohio State game (last year) where he had that flurry.”
With Sulaimon back at his expected level, Parker and Hood as good as advertised and Quinn Cook dishing out eight assists (and adding 21 points), the Blue Devils were, in a word, exciting.
Or, as Davidson head coach Bob McKillop put it, “that was a rather impressive display of offensive firepower.”
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley