Duke put together another good defensive performance on Saturday against Pitt.
The Blue Devils pressed the Panthers for the majority of the game, and it paid off. No. 5 Duke beat Pitt 81-54. It was the second time in 10 days the Blue Devils have beaten the Panthers.
After starting conference play with a 1-2 record, Duke (17-2, 5-2 ACC) has won four straight ACC games.
Here are five takeaways from Duke’s win:
1. Duke senior guard Grayson Allen seems to have shaken off his shooting slump. The 6-5, 205-pound guard, had been off recently. Coming into Saturday’s game, Allen had shot 3-for-17 over the past three games.
The slump didn’t seem to have an effect on the rest of Duke’s offense, which rolled through Pitt on Jan. 10, Wake on Jan. 13 and came back to beat Miami on Monday by 8.
But against Pitt on Saturday, Allen hit four 3-pointers. He was 4-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. A few 3-pointers seemed to go in before rolling out.
Allen said that’s happened a few times already, which usually is a good sign for a shooter coming out of a slump.
“I’ve had like nine of those in the last three games that hit the front of the rim, go halfway in and bounce out,” Allen said. “When you’re about a half inch off like that, there’s nothing you need to change or anything. You just keep shooting it.”
2. Duke pressed early and often against Pitt. Duke’s defense continues to get better. The 3-4 press on Saturday worked to its advantage. Duke forced three 10-second violations.
Duke also forced 15 Pitt turnovers, including 11 in the first half. It was a big reason Duke jumped out to such a big lead. Duke scored 24 points off those turnovers.
“You have to be able to do different things defensively because you’re going to play different offenses and different talents,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But the thing that this team didn’t have, because of all those games in one month, was a base of defense. The foot moves where you could go out more, or stay in. We’re in the process of developing that base.”
3. Gary Trent Jr.’s success continues. Trent, a freshman guard, had his third consecutive game in which he shot lights out from behind the 3-point line. Against Pitt on Saturday, Trent was 5-for-7. In the last three games, he is 15-for-21 from behind the 3-point line. And over the past 10 games he is 36-for-67 from behind the arc.
“The kid who has been unbelievable is Gary,” Krzyzewski said. “Gary is playing like a senior. So poised. He’s letting the game come to him. Defensively. He’s really playing well.”
4. Turnovers still a problem. While Duke played well on Saturday, it turned the ball over too many times (15). Good teams, which Pitt has not been this season, will take advantage of that. Miami did on Monday and led by 13 late in the game, before Duke buckled down and stormed back to win 83-75. Against Miami, Duke had 19 turnovers.
Many of Duke’s turnovers in the last two games have been unnecessary and self-inflicted turnovers. It starts with freshman point guard Trevon Duval, who had five turnovers on Monday and four on Saturday.
5. Marques Bolden’s injury worse than initially expected. Sophomore forward Javin DeLaurier, who had missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, returned on Saturday. He played 10 minutes and had two blocks and three rebounds.
But Bolden, a sophomore center, missed his fifth consecutive game with a MCL sprain. The injury was initially not thought to be serious. When Duke announced Bolden would miss its game against N.C. State on Jan. 6, it wasn’t until warmups that the staff thought that he could probably play. Teammate Jack White fell into his knee in practice and Bolden has missed five games since. The team is hoping he can return next week.