Duke just had to get the freshmen going. Sounds like a pretty simple game plan considering four of the five starters, and the top three scorers are all first-year players.
But it took them really getting going for the Blue Devils to pull away from Boston College, 80-55.
The Duke freshmen - Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones - scored 60 of the teams first 68 points. The four former McDonald’s All-Americans finished with a combined 70 points as the Blue Devils improved to 20-2 overall and 8-1 in the ACC.
“BC played well against us,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They outplayed us in the first half. I thought their zone really messed us up. We played good defense to hold them to 55 and thank goodness we were doing that because we were completely out of sync.”
Reddish led the way with 24 points, one off his career-high, followed by Barrett with 19. Williamson had 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Jones finished with 11 points.
It was the fifth time this season the four freshman have all scored in double figures in the same game, and the second game in a row. The Blue Devils are 4-1 in those games. This was the fifth 20-point game of the season for Reddish, who shot 1-for-6 from three in the first half, but saw two of his first three go through the net in the second.
“It’s huge,” Reddish said about getting off to a hot start in the second half. “I’ve been working so hard throughout these last few weeks to get back to who I am, and to see it pay off, it feels good.”
Krzyzewski was equally impressed with Reddish on the defensive end.
“How he was moving defensively was just beautiful,” Krzyzewski said. “It was beautiful what he was doing. Watch how Cam was running through screens from side to side, I’m not saying he’s Grant (Hill), but he reminded me of Grant. He’s 6-8, he’s long, it was beautiful. I think that helped him offensively. He had an outstanding game for us.”
After a first half where the entire team struggled, Duke started the half by scoring on each of its first three possessions. Reddish started the half with a layup, followed by an old-fashioned three-point play from Barrett to make it 33-30. Reddish knocked down a three from the corner to make it a six-point lead.
Williamson and Jones did their part on the defensive end to start the second. Williamson blocked a Ky Bowman layup attempt to set up the three from Reddish and tight defense from Jones forced Bowman to air ball a shot from the top of the key.
“That’s just how we are,” Reddish said. “We like to see each other do well and it helps us. I feel like if we continue to do that we are going to be pretty good.”
Williamson scored under the basket on the other end and Reddish hit another triple, giving the rookies the first 13 points of the half for Duke. It also helped that the Blue Devils, who shot 1-for-15 from three in the first half, found their groove from behind the line in the second.
The freshmen did such a good job after regrouping at halftime that little was needed from the rest of the group. Marques Bolden (six points) and Alex O’Connell (four) were the only other two players to score for Duke.
Krzyzewski said his team was “great” in the second half.
“We did a really good job on a kid I think is one of the best players in the league in Bowman,” Krzyzewski said. “For him to get only 11 points on 17 shots ... it wasn’t just Tre, it was out big guys, they were moving their feet.”
In the second half Jones, Duke’s best on-ball defender, picked up the former high school football star, Bowman, 94 feet.
“He’s an older guy, really strong, really explosive guy,” Jones said. “But that didn’t change how I wanted to guard him. In the first half I was lacking energy, but in the second half I brought it right away because we were lacking that for sure.”
The first half for the Blue Devils was forgettable. Duke shot 32 percent (12-38) from the floor and 1-15 from three. The Blue Devils went on an early 8-0 run to take a 12-8 lead, but the rest of their first half runs weren’t positive ones.
After the eight minute mark Duke went 0-for-6 from the floor, a scoring drought of 2:48, and the Eagles made enough baskets to pull to within three, 20-17.
The Blue Devils went nearly six minutes without a field goal, and Boston College (11-10, 2-7) made it a one-point game, 24-23, after a layup from Nik Popovic. The lowlight of the first half was a series when 6-11 center Marques Bolden missed a layup, gathered the rebound, and missed another layup from point blank range. It was part of a stretch where Duke missed four straight baskets. The Blue Devils ended the half hitting 2 of their last 11 shots and the Eagles took a 30-28 lead into the locker room.
“We were dead,” Jones said. “Didn’t have a lot of energy. I knew that was going to start with me. Second half I knew I had to set the tone and everyone would pick it up for sure.”
The Eagles got a boost from Bowman, the North Carolina native who scored five in a row to give Boston College a four-point lead, 30-26. Reddish got a steal and a layup right before the buzzer to pull Duke within two.
The Blue Devils offense went missing on more than one occasion during the first half. At one point in the first eight minutes of the game, Duke missed four of six shots from the floor, but still nursed a four-point lead. After a timeout, the Blue Devils missed nine straight field goals, their only points coming from a Williamson free throw, and two more from the line from Barrett.
The Blue Devils led by as many as seven (20-13) in the first half before their first cold streak. Boston College went on a 6-0 run to pull to within one, and chipped away just enough until Bowman’s first three of the opening half gave the Eagles their second lead, a lead they would take into the locker room at halftime.
The Eagles, though, were grounded in the second half, shooting 33 percent from the floor.
“When we’re not letting teams score for multiple minutes and we are able to connect on the offensive end,” Jones said, “That’s when we are at our best.”
Jordan Chatman led Boston College with 16 points. Popovic finished with 13 and Bowman added 11. The 11 points tied for a season-low for Bowman.
Duke is now on a six-game winning streak and improve to 21-3 versus Boston College, a perfect 10-0 in Cameron against the Eagles.
The Blue Devils will now play four of their next six on the road - three of the games against ranked teams: No. 3 Virginia; No. 16 Louisville; No. 11 Virginia Tech.