Duke beats Gardner-Webb 85-66

lkeeley@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2013 

— This is how it was originally conceived: Duke would be so effective on offense other teams just simply couldn’t keep up.

That was the case Monday night, as the No. 8 Blue Devils ran Gardner-Webb off the floor, winning 85-66 and shooting 50 percent from the floor. Through the first half—which ended with Duke up by 14—the Blue Devils were shooting 58.8 percent from the field.

“With our athleticism and our wings and our guards, that’s when we’re at our best,” point guard Quinn Cook said of the first half. “We’ve got to make it a habit and stay sharp for 40 minutes.”

At one point in the first half, Duke (8-2) scored on 12 straight possessions. Duke went on separate 7-0, 11-0 and 7-0 runs in the opening half and shot 75 percent through the first 10 minutes. Andre Dawkins came in off the bench and hit his first four shots, with three coming from beyond the arc. He was one of four Blue Devils to finish the first half in double figures, along with Quinn Cook, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Duke went into the break with a 53-39 advantage.

Garder-Webb opened in a 2-3 zone—not surprising, considering head coach Tim Craft spent six years working with East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo—but the Blue Devils quickly put pressure on that by making four of its first six 3-point attempts.

“It’s five guys that can attack you, or at least three guys that draw double teams at all times,” Hood said. “It’s hard (for other teams) to keep that pace, especially with the guys on the court.”

Defensively, Duke was able to rebound well in the opening 20 minutes, one of the main points of emphasis during the 12-day break between games. The Blue Devils had nine offensive rebounds through the first 20 minutes (to the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ five defensive boards), representing 64 percent of the available rebounds on that end. Duke’s defensive rebounding was tight, too, collecting 77.8 percent of rebounds at Gardner-Webb’s basket (seven of nine).

Those numbers stayed high throughout the game—Duke collected 78.6 percent of the available rebounds off the Gardner-Webb glass and 48.4 percent off its own glass (15 offensive rebounds to 16 Runnin’ Bulldogs defensive boards).

That low rebounding total from the first half– nine at the Runnin Bulldogs’ end – was due to Gardner-Webb’s shooting 62.5 percent in the first 20 minutes, the third-highest percentage in one half for a Duke opponent, surpassed only by both halves of the Duke-Vermont game. Coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn't overly concerned, attributing any defensive lapses to the long break from games.

And despite shooting at that clip, the Runnin’ Bulldogs still trailed by 14 points at the half. When Duke’s offense is running at full speed and efficiency, opponents will struggle to match the pace.

Take Dawkins, and the rest of the Duke shooting guards, as a case study. Dawkins finished with 18 points off the bench in 22 minutes, second-most on the team. The Blue Devils have enough offense to afford starting Tyler Thornton for his defense. Matt Jones, third off the bench at the shooting guard spot, brought a little bit of both in his 14 minutes.

As a fourth option, there’s Rasheed Sulaimon, who started 33 of Duke’s 36 games last season. There was no competition last year—Seth Curry didn’t practice, and the Blue Devils needed his ability to create off the dribble, which he did better than everyone else. That’s not the case this year: Parker (21 points) and Hood (15) bring the bulk of the offense, leaving Krzyzewski free to blend the rest of the lineup as he sees fit: Thornton for defense, Dawkins for offense, Matt Jones as an alternative. Sulaimon played five minutes. To get more time, he will have to beat out the guys in front of him.

“Unless they’ve changed this, there are only 200 minutes, and five guys for 40 minutes,” Krzyzewski said. “You have three guys that are going to take up almost half those minutes, Jabari, Rodney and Quinn. Then it’s a matter of how you do it. When someone says, well someone—who would they play for?”

It’s a luxury most teams wouldn’t have, bringing Dawkins’ scoring from the bench. But with this group of Blue Devils, points will never be hard to find.

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