Duke Now

Freshmen. 3-pointers. Trevon Duval. Five observations from Duke's win over Iona.

Duke's Wendell Carter,Jr. talks about his injury and first NCAA tourney game

Duke freshman Wendell Carter Jr. talks about his injury status and playing in his first NCAA Tournament game after the Blue Devils defeated Iona Thursday, March 15, 2018.
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Duke freshman Wendell Carter Jr. talks about his injury status and playing in his first NCAA Tournament game after the Blue Devils defeated Iona Thursday, March 15, 2018.

The pregame jitters for Duke's freshmen starters were there, but it didn't show as the No. 2 seed Blue Devils dominated 15th seeded Iona 89-67 in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.

Duke (27-7) improved to 29-4 in first round NCAA tournament games since 1985, and will play seventh seeded Rhode Island in the Round of 32 on Saturday.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. No tournament experience? Didn't matter for Duke's freshmen.

Duke starts four freshmen, which means none had NCAA tournament experience prior to Thursday. But that didn't show. Duke got off to a fast start, first led by freshman point guard Trevon Duval, then freshman forward Marvin Bagley III.

After one half, Duke was shooting 62 percent from the floor. Bagley finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. Duval had 19 points and eight assists, freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. had 16 points, and freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. had nine points and eight rebounds.

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"Now we've got a little bit of tournament experience," said Duke senior guard Grayson Allen, who finished with 16 points and nine assists. "We know what it's like to play in a game where there's so many other games going on at the time or right before you or right after you. So many distractions ... but we were able to focus on this one."

There was a moment in the second half when Iona went on an 8-0 run and Krzyzewski called a timeout to remind his players that every NCAA tournament game was going to be tough and to not take off.

2. Carter's injury

Carter, who is dealing with an injury, played well on Thursday, but grimaced at times while on the floor. He played 24 minutes. Carter, who said he twisted his ankle earlier this year, said it started to affect his Achilles.

He said one day he was walking and noticed pain in the back of his foot.

Duke freshman Wendell Carter Jr. talks about his injury status and playing in his first NCAA Tournament game after the Blue Devils defeated Iona Thursday, March 15, 2018.

But Carter said he feels optimistic about being fine for the rest of the tournament games.

"It's getting better," Carter said. "Day by day I'm getting a lot of treatments in the mornings and night time, but it's definitely getting better."

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3. Duval made things easier for his teammates

The Blue Devils are 18-1 when Duval has two turnovers or less. They are now 9-6 when he has three turnovers or more. Duke is at its best when Duval is playing well.

Duval had four turnovers on against Iona, but his strong play overshadowed that. He had 13 points and six assists at halftime and knocked down his first three 3-point shots.

But his passing and taking care of the ball is what makes Duke great. When Duval penetrated and the defense collapsed he found open teammates for easy shots.

"It makes everything easier for everyone else," Allen said. "Marvin doesn't have to do as much with the ball in his hands, where he can just catch from (Duval) and go right up. Catch the ball in the post, take one dribble, make his move and then me and Gary are spotting up playing off of him."

4. When Iona started hot the Blue Devils made the right adjustments

Iona matched Duke score for score during the first nine minutes of the game. During the first few minutes of the game, the Gaels were shooting better than 70 percent from the floor. They also made three of their first four 3-point attempts. They were on fire.

Then they weren't. Iona made only two of its next 20 3-point attempts to finish 5-for-24.

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Iona pushes the ball up the floor well, and scored on some easy baskets before Duke could set up its zone. The Blue Devils made adjustments and found a way to slow down the Gaels.

Duke went on a 17-3 run over a four minute period late in the first half. Iona finished the game shooting 43 percent from the floor.

5. Duke was good from behind the 3-point line

When the Blue Devils' 3-point shots aren't falling, they have a tendency to force the ball inside to Bagley. He's their most reliable option on offense. But it also negatively affects their game, as it did against UNC in the semifinals of the ACC tournament because players start to become stagnant. Duke lost that March 9 game 74-69.

But Duke's 3-pointers were falling on Thursday. The Blue Devils finished shooting 13-for-30 from behind the 3-point line, which is 43 percent. Four of those 3-pointers came from a player who shoots 27 percent from 3. Duval, who was 4-for-5.

"I had open shots and I was confident to take them," Duval said.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander
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