Even after Duke won its initial preseason exhibition last Saturday, coach Mike Krzyzewski lamented his team’s poor perimeter shooting.
In Wednesday night’s final exhibition prior to opening the regular season, Matthew Hurt and Joey Baker saw to it that complaint wouldn’t be repeated.
Baker nailed six 3-pointers and Hurt, shooting from all over the court, made 9 of 13 shots overall as the No. 4-ranked Blue Devils routed Fort Valley State 126-57 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
With a season-opening game with No. 3 Kansas looming Tuesday night in the Champions Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Duke looked more ready for that kind of challenge than it did in beating Northwest Missouri State 69-63 on Saturday.
Northwest Missouri State is the reigning NCAA Division II champion with an experienced roster back. Still, Duke made only two of 16 3-pointers while shooting 42.2 percent overall in that closer-than-expected win.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to the other night,” Duke sophomore guard Tre Jones said. “But it was an exhibition game, our first game together so we learned from it. We got after it in practice the last couple of days and came out and played like we wanted to tonight.”
Duke quickly overwhelmed Fort Valley State, another Division II opponent but one that went 7-22 last season.
With the Blue Devils hounding the Wildcats into turnovers and mistakes with their full-court pressure, Baker and Hurt delivered a far better performance on the offensive end for Duke.
A 6-7 sophomore who played in four games last season, Baker led the Blue Devils with 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He hit his first four 3-point shots and finished the night having made six of eight.
“Joey kept it simple,” Krzyzewski said. “His teammates found him and he knocked them down. It was great. He’s been doing an excellent job in practice, especially when he doesn’t dribble the ball. He’s just playing off people. If he can add that to our team then that makes us obviously a deeper squad.”
Hurt, a 6-9, 215 pound freshman forward, added 19 points with three rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.
In all, six different Duke players sank 3-pointers as the Blue Devils made 13 of 28 from behind the deeper arc.
Defensively, the Blue Devils recorded 24 steals as Fort Valley State turned the ball over 36 times.
Starting guards Jones and Jordan Goldwire spearheaded the full-court pressure. Goldwire had five steals while Jones finished with three. Those two were joined in the starting backcourt by 6-6 freshman Cassius Stanley, who had 16 points, three assists and a steal.
“Having those three kids, with Goldwire and Tre playing together and Cassius,” Krzyzewski said, “that’s a lot of athletic ability up front.”
Hurt and 6-10 freshman Vernon Carey rounded out Duke’s starting five. Carey had 11 points with eight rebounds and three steals.