Late in the first half of then-No. 15 Duke’s 81-64 win at Boston College, the Blue Devils went on an 8-0 run – with all eight points coming at the free-throw line.
That wasn’t an accident.
“We drive, and we also pay attention to team fouls,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said about the run. “Like, we change how we attack based on team fouls. So, if we’re going to be in the double bonus, we’re going to drive the ball more. To me, it makes sense.
“You’ve just got to play the game and adjust and adapt the way the game is presented to you at that point.”
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Duke’s run Saturday started with Boston College’s seventh team foul, which put the Eagles over the limit and put the Blue Devils in the bonus.
So, if we’re going to be in the double bonus, we’re going to drive the ball more. To me, it makes sense.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
Duke had an 18-17 lead, and Chase Jeter collected an offensive rebound and was fouled underneath the basket with 6 minutes, 55 seconds left in the half. He made both free throws. Next possession, Luke Kennard went to the basket and was fouled. Next was Grayson Allen on two straight possessions. Less than two minutes later – with 5:19 left in the half – Duke had a nine-point lead at 26-17.
“A couple of silly fouls, overly aggressive fouls, one-on-one situations,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said. “At that point, we were stopping them, we just had to keep them off the foul line.”
That’s easier said than done. This season, Duke has scored nearly a quarter of its points at the free-throw line (22.9 percent). The Blue Devils have made 64 more free throws (283) than their opponents have attempted (219). And Duke is hitting 71.8 percent of its shots from the line. This trend matches up well with the times, too, as college basketball officials continue to emphasize calling fouls to reduce physical play.
22.9 Percentage of Duke’s points that have come from the free-throw line
71.7 Percentage of free throws Duke players make
Wake Forest, which No. 14 Duke will play Wednesday in Winston-Salem, averages an ACC-high 20.8 fouls per game. Expect more of a steady stream of Duke drivers to the basket.
It helps that Allen and Brandon Ingram, Duke’s best players, are well-equipped to drive to the rim.
Ingram, a 6-foot-9 guard with a 7-3 wingspan, will be a matchup issue for most ACC teams. Bigger defenders, like Wake Forest’s Dinos Mitoglou, will have trouble matching Ingram’s speed. And smaller, quicker guards, like Codi Miller-McIntyre, who’s 6-3, don’t compare to Ingram height-wise. Ideally for Duke, Ingram would shoot over Miller-McIntyre.
And Allen thrives off of barreling to the basket and drawing contact.
In the second half against Boston College, Duke drew the Eagles’ seventh foul with 9:03 left. That gave the Blue Devils 14 shots at the free-throw line with the clock stopped. In close games this season, that habit of getting to the line could be the difference.