There was a time, briefly, in the first half where Duke and Elon were engaged in a competitive basketball game.
That passed quickly.
The Blue Devils fire-bombed the Phoenix 105-66. The lead was as large as 40 points in the first half, and Duke had a 70-31 lead at the break. That nearly set a new school record for points in a half (Duke had 72 in the first half against Harvard in the 1989-90 season opener and in the second half against Virginia in the 1964-65 season).
At the first media timeout of the game, Duke’s lead was just 13-12, as a few defensive lapses gave the Phoenix (9-4) easy baskets. But once play resumed, the Blue Devils caught fire offensively, shooting 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) from the field for the rest of the half.
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“It was one thing for them to drive us, but they also knocked down shots,” Elon coach Matt Matheny said. “And they’ve got a lot of good shooters.”
Simply put, regardless of who is on the court, Duke isn’t going to lose games in which it shoots that type of percentage from the floor (and 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half, too).
If there was any rust built up from the nine-day holiday break from games, it didn’t take long for the Blue Devils to shake it off. Junior Matt Jones had said after Duke’s last game, the 77-75 overtime loss to Utah in Madison Square Garden, that the break was coming at a good time. The opportunity to get away from campus and go home to familiar faces would refresh the Blue Devils, Jones said. Turns out, he was right.
“You can tell, the previous couple of practices that we had, guys were upbeat, kind of together, and their faces were joyous,” Jones said. “It showed out there tonight. Everyone was having fun out there. When you pass the ball and play the way we played tonight, it can be fun.”
Brandon Ingram continued to show why he is moving up draft boards—most project him as the No. 2 pick next spring—as Elon didn’t have any players even close to capable of matching his length and athleticism. Ingram had 20 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field as he constantly took Elon’s slower, smaller defenders off the dribble.
Ingram finished with 26 points, tied for his career high. Over Duke’s past five games, Ingram is averaging 22.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, shooting 58.7 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.
Luke Kennard had 18 points off the bench, shooting 4-of-8 from deep, and Grayson Allen and Matt Jones added 17 apiece. Allen is still feeling the effects of the flu that hampered him against Utah—Krzyzewski said he has lost eight or nine pounds as a result.
In other health news, injured forward Amile Jefferson, who watched on from the bench, had the hard cast on his broken right foot removed Monday morning and is now in a walking boot. Krzyzewski said there as been some healing, and the medical staff will re-evaluate his foot in two weeks. There is still no timetable for his return. But if Duke’s offense can find the gear it found against Elon, Jefferson won’t be missed quite as much.
The Blue Devils have one more tune-up on Wednesday against Long Beach State before ACC play begins Saturday at Boston College.