Jeff Capel may have cracked the code to freshman center Marques Bolden.
The acting head coach said Bolden played his “best game in a Duke uniform” after the No. 18 Blue Devils used a second-half surge to take down Miami, 70-58, on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Bolden serving a big role in the victory.
He was the third post sub off the bench in Duke’s previous game behind sophomore Chase Jeter and freshman Javin DeLaurier, as Duke (15-4, 3-3 ACC) sought an inside presence without veteran forward Amile Jefferson.
Jefferson returned from a bruised bone Saturday, and Bolden was the first up off the bench inside.
The 6-foot-11, 245-pound rookie played with the most spunk he’s had all season. After a preseason, lower-leg injury kept him sidelined until Dec. 3, Bolden, seemingly with a lack of confidence, hadn’t particularly displayed how big a force he can be inside.
That changed Saturday, and if Duke wants to turn its season around, Bolden must continue what he did against Miami.
“This whole week of preparation,” said Bolden, who scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting to accompany four boards in a career-high 23 minutes. “Just the confidence I had in myself, and my teammates instilled it. We worked hard all week for this game. We knew we had to win.”
Miami (12-6, 2-4) forced a double-digit lead in the first half, when Bolden got blocked by a defender six inches shorter than him. It didn’t discourage the freshman, though.
He cut Duke’s deficit to five after a monster putback at 9:46, a bit of heart in his stride as he got back on defense.
Bolden finished a layup with his off hand late in the first, and was on the floor to start the second half as part of Capel’s different look. Bolden, Frank Jackson and Matt Jones joined starters Jefferson and Jayson Tatum after halftime.
The result: a 20-0 run.
Bolden contributed a dunk and a layup during that span, which lasted six minutes and 12 seconds.
“He is a really talented kid that hasn’t played as well this year,” Capel said. “But I’ll tell you what: He’s worked his butt off this week, and he’s had a great attitude, and it’s great to see it translate into success.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan