Even with everyone healthy and the wins piling up, Duke remains less than its best.
That’s because grad student forward Amile Jefferson is playing through a painful bone bruise in his right foot that has cut into his production inside. And junior guard Grayson Allen has nagging foot injuries that have him hobbling around.
Both are in the starting lineup, but they need help from younger players if No. 12 Duke is to maintain its winning streak.
That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday night when Duke beat No. 14 Virginia, 65-55, at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.
Jefferson attempted, and made, just two shots and scored four points. He also picked up three fouls in the first half and got his fourth early in the second half. He played only 21 minutes.
So freshman forward Harry Giles stepped up and tied his season-best 19 minutes, producing five points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist.
“It was a big game for Harry Giles,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He helped because Amile is playing hurt. He made some bad fouls, but he’s not 100 percent. So if Harry can do what he did tonight, that’s going to help us a lot.”
The 19 minutes were the most for Giles since he played that many on Jan. 14 when Duke lost 78-69 at Louisville. That was when Jefferson missed the second of two games with a bone bruise in his right foot.
Jefferson has played eight games since returning from that injury but his sore foot hasn’t allowed him to play his best. He averaged a double-double prior to his injury. Since his return he’s only had one game where he scored in double figures and one double-digit rebounding game.
But while Jefferson is trending down, Giles’ play is heading up.
It was a big game for Harry Giles. He helped because Amile is playing hurt. He made some bad fouls, but he’s not 100 percent. So if Harry can do what he did tonight, that’s going to help us a lot.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
“That’s us as a team,” Giles said. “If someone falls, we help each other out. They are always telling me to go out there and set a tone and clean it up. I’m going to hold it down and have (Jefferson’s) back at all times. That’s what I did. As a team you’ve got to be able to rely on one another. Whether you are starting or not. Always be ready to play.”
Giles came to Duke projected as the possible No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft. So a five-point, three-rebound night wasn’t supposed to be something to be celebrated.
However, Giles had arthroscopic knee surgery in October and didn’t play in a game until Dec. 19.
He’s healthy and feeling more comfortable, which is something Duke needs with Jefferson hobbling and not as effective.
Allen made just 2 of 10 shots, including 1 of 6 3-pointers against Virginia. Krzyzewski replaced him with freshman guard Frank Jackson before the first media timeout of the first half.
“Grayson hurt his ankle again,” Krzyzewski said. “He and Amile are not in great shape. So he’s not there with his shot.”
Jackson scored two points and had one assist but he played 13 minutes without turning the ball over.