Early in the first half, surrounded by four freshmen, Amile Jefferson sensed that the vibe was off. So, when a stop in the action occurred, he screamed, “Yo! Come here!” demonstratively waving his hand as his teammates crowded around him. It was an attempt at a spark, as the Blue Devils were off offensively for most of the night. Still, though, the Blue Devils dispatched an overmatched Buffalo 82-59
“We didn’t have a really good first half,” Jefferson said. “We were making some bad plays, just rushing. I just wanted us to slow down and come together. We weren’t connected for about three plays in a row. I just wanted us to come in and talk, calm down, settle us down a little bit.”
After five strong halves of play – the second half against Yale and full games against Utah State and Indiana – Duke wasn’t able to continue the upward trajectory. The action wasn’t easy on the eyes, especially in the first half. Both teams shot less than 33 percent from the floor. Brandon Ingram was the lone bright spot, leading the Blue Devils with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. His teammates were 4-for-21 (19 percent) from the floor.
We didn’t have a really good first half. We were making some bad plays, just rushing. I just wanted us to slow down and come together. We weren’t connected for about three plays in a row. I just wanted us to come in and talk, calm down, settle us down a little bit.
“We looked tired offensively in the first half,” Mike Krzyzewski said.
Even with Ingram’s contribution, Duke’s 32.3 shooting percentage from the floor was a season-low for one half of play. For the full game, the Blue Devils’ 40.7 shooting percentage was a season-low as well. Ingram finished with a team-high 23 points (8-of-15 from the floor).
At one point, Duke players not named Brandon Ingram missed 16 straight shots. The streak lasted from Grayson Allen’s layup to open the scoring at the 19:06 mark until Matt Jones’s layup with 2:55 left in the half.
Krzyzewski tried to get his three freshmen reserves – Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter – into the game early, but he was forced to stay mainly with his starters in the first half as Duke could never shoot well enough to build a comfortable lead. Jeter’s time on the court was particularly short, as he attempted two shots on consecutive possessions, and both were blocked.
Jeter did not re-enter the game until there was less than three minutes to go, with Duke up by 9 points. That does not bode well for frontcourt depth once ACC play begins.
Despite all of this, Duke had a double-digit lead for most of the last seven minutes of the half and nearly all of the second. As bad as the Blue Devils’ offense was, Buffalo’s was worse, as the Bulls bricked shot after shot.
Allen worked up a sweat on both ends of the floor, but, oftentimes, his efforts went for naught offensively. Allen finished with 22 points but shot just 5-for-15 from the floor. He was a source of life and energy, though, in the otherwise dead gym. And he did finish with a career-high 11 rebounds, all on the defensive glass.
We looked tired offensively in the first half.
“Grayson made about five drives where he is passing out, passes that I haven’t seen and don’t want to see anymore,” Krzyzewski said, attributing that to tiredness.
Duke hit more shots in the second half while the Bulls continued to miss at an alarming rate. Over the final 20 minutes, Duke shot 50 percent. The long-distance shots never started to fall regularly – five made 3s (on 14 attempts) set a season-low as well.
An Ingram 3 with 14:08 left in the game put Duke ahead 46-32 and forced a Buffalo timeout. For the first time, the building didn’t feel half-empty. The Blue Devils were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
Next up for Duke is a 10-day break for final exams. The Blue Devils will return to the floor Dec. 15 against Georgia Southern.
Robinson to redshirt: Duke freshman forward Justin Robinson, the son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, will redshirt this year, Krzyzewski said Saturday (barring an unprecedented run of injuries). Robinson came to campus as a preferred walk-on but was given a scholarship when one was available.