Duke rolls to 109-59 victory over Fairfield

Duke’s Justise Winslow makes a two-pointer at the end of the first half as Fairfield’s Malcolm Gilbert defends.
Duke’s Justise Winslow makes a two-pointer at the end of the first half as Fairfield’s Malcolm Gilbert defends. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Duke’s 109-59 win over Fairfield was unofficially sealed with just over 16 minutes left, as Quinn Cook swished in a 3 and turned around to slap hands with a Cameron Crazie. That gave the No. 4 Blue Devils (2-0) their first 20-point lead.

But the final score isn’t the most important takeaway from this talent mismatch.

For the second time in two days, Duke’s two most valuable assets – Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow – proved their worth.

With 5 seconds left before halftime and the Blue Devils inbounding the ball on their offensive half of the court, head coach Mike Krzyzewski called out a play, and Cook took the pass. He threw it in the general direction of the basket – and Justise Winslow was quickly above the rim to slam it in.

The physically gifted freshman was quick to drive the lane Saturday night, and the result was normally two points for Duke, either in the form of a made basket or a trip to the line. Winslow took a team-high seven trips to the line, making five (he finished with a team-high 18). While Winslow came to Durham with a reputation as a defense-first guy that needs to work on his shooting, he certainly hasn’t displayed any issues getting to the rim. And even as the opponents get better, his strength advantage should remain.

“I heard it,” Winslow said of his reputation as everything but a shooter. “Friends, coaches would come up to me and say, ‘Did you read this article, blah, blah, blah.’ I was very confident. I had a lot of great individual accolades in the state of Texas, where there are other good players, so I was very confident in my game. I wasn’t worried about the shooting thing and all that.”

Throughout the preseason, the Blue Devils’ coaches were quick to point out that, as talented as Okafor is, he still has much room to improve. Both truisms were on display during the first half – Okafor went 6-for-7 from the field to lead Duke with 13 points, but he was also responsible for four of Duke’s seven turnovers. Fairfield (1-1) was quick to double team him in the post, and, a few times, Okafor was too quick to turn and try to bank in a shot. He, too, is strong and doesn’t need to rush shots down low. Duke’s big man finished with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and also added nine rebounds.

Another habit Okafor needs to break: his default to hold the ball with one hand. Rebounding works better with two hands, but that might be a hard habit to break for a guy who has been able to since at least seventh grade.

“His hands are so big, the ball looks like a tennis ball,” Amile Jefferson said.

Now the competition is about to get real – Duke faces No. 18 Michigan State Tuesday night in Indianapolis.