Duke didn’t need 40 minutes of basketball to know it was better than Ferris State, the defending Division II national champions. But the young Blue Devils used their exhibition game with the Bulldogs as another opportunity for a new lineup to gel.
Duke had no issues getting into a groove during its 132-48 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Five players scored in double digits for the Blue Devils, led by freshman R.J. Barrett who outscored Ferris State by himself at the half, 19-16. Duke raced out to a 64-16 lead at intermission.
Barrett finished with 32 points, followed by Zion Williamson (23), Cam Reddish (20) and Marques Bolden (15).
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Here’s five things that we learned:
DUKE HAS ATHLETES WHO ATTACK
Duke wants to push the ball and with Tre Jones, Barrett, Williamson and Reddish, anyone of the freshmen can take the ball from coast-to-coast. The Blue Devils scored 48 fast-break points against the Bulldogs.
Barrett and Williamson both looked comfortable going to the rim, especially early in the game. Duke’s first six field goals were all layups as the Blue Devils jumped out to an 18-2 lead at the first media timeout.
Duke captain Javin DeLaurier said this is the most athletic team he’s been on.
“We have a ton of mismatches and opportunities for guys to score the ball,” DeLaurier said. “It’s a lot of fun to be apart of.”
STARTING LINEUP SO VERSATILE
Besides Bolden starting in the middle and Jones starting at point guard, Duke puts a bunch of position-less players on the floor — guys who don’t see themselves as a guard or a forward. That’s big for the style of play the Blue Devils prefer.
“What we tried to do in these two games in the second half is use R.J., Cam and Zion as a primary handler,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We want these guys to be prepared. Putting the ball in his (Zion) hands is the smart thing to do.”
DeLaurier added, “It’s makes us hard to guard because you just never know what’s going to happen. Anyone can get the rebound and take off.”
WHAT CAN’T RJ DO?
Barrett, the freshman forward from Canada, might prove to be the most versatile out of the bunch. The 6-7 forward took over ball handling duties whenever Tre Jones was on the bench, and sometimes brought the ball up the floor while Jones was on the floor. He dished out four assists and pulled down nine rebounds.
After starting the game in attack mode — his first two field goals were layups — Barrett hit consecutive 3s to give Duke a 33-10 lead. He finished 4-of-7 from behind the line.
BOLDEN FOR THREE?
Junior center Bolden finished the game 1-2 from deep, the first time in his career that he attempted, and hit, and 3-pointer in a Blue Devils uniform. The Texan finished with 15 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
Krzyzewski said it was some of the best minutes he’s seen from Bolden since he’s been in Durham. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the big man is finally healthy. And the 3-point shooting might be something we see more of from the 6-11 Bolden.
“He can shoot,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s actually a very good shooter, as long as he’s not shooting it fast. If they do some ball screens, he can vary the roll or the pop. Actually one of the three’s he popped off the screen and he had a lot of time.”
Bolden said that’s a shot he’s been working on all summer and the coaches give him the confidence to fire away when he’s open.
“Just being able to space the floor and being comfortable with the ball everywhere on the court,” Bolden said. “I put a lot of work in so I trust myself and coach saw the work I put in so he trusts me to take and make those shots.”
LONG AND ATHLETIC ON DEFENSE
In a 106-64 win over Virginia Union last week, Krzyzewski said the team wasn’t very good in their transition defense. Against the Bulldogs, the veteran coach praised his team for the way their defended in the open court.
Duke finished with 15 steals and scored 39 points off of 24 Ferris State turnovers. Of their 48 fast break points, a lot of those came off of deflected passes or steals in the lane. Krzyzewski said this is one of the top group of athletes he’s had on the defensive end of the floor, comparing them to championship teams from 1992 and 2001.
“This group is wide and athletic and they are playing hard,” Krzyzewski said. “When you do that the court shrinks. It doesn’t get bigger. If you have those guys playing with their arms out and moving, you have a chance to be good, especially with the ball pressure that Tre puts on.”