It wasn't a pretty game by any means, but there were a lot of positives to take out of the Duke-Winston-Salem State game, starting with defense.
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Duke forced 19 turnovers and held the Rams to 29.3% from the floor and 16.7% in the first half. Duke had nine steals and limited WSSU to four assists.
That's pretty effective.
On the other hand, Duke's offense truly struggled. The Devils came perilously close to breaking (it wouldn't count from an exhibition game but still) a decades-long streak of hitting at least one three point shot per game, and usually quite a few more: 1-17 is truly subpar for a team which traditionally loves the long bomb.
That's 5.9%, if you were curious; the Rams were substantially better at 18.2%.
Winston-Salem State also was competitive on the boards, with Wykevin Bazemore pulling down 17 by his lonesome, with eight of them offensive.
Dunks tend to get a lot more attention and more of a macho reputation, but really, there's not much in the game that's more macho than rebounding. Essentially, it's a brawl within refined rules, and is the most physical part of the game.
Getting 17 boards is phenomenal; getting them at 6-4 and 185, with two 6-11 guys hanging around, is incredible. Bazemore had one of the more phenomenal games by a visitor to Cameron in quite some time. He's going to be a monster for his team. Don't think for a minute that scouts didn't notice this; they did.
He also put up 11 points. The problem was he didn't get much help.
Justin Glover, who said before the game that his team would win, was held to 3-13 for nine points and had five turnovers. Marcus Wells was just 2-11.
For the Devils, Mason Plumlee had a very good game, shooting 7-7 from the floor and 5-9 from the line. He finished with 19 points and 10 boards, two blocks, one assist and one steal.
For whatever reason, Ryan Kelly struggled from the floor, whiffing from the floor, going 0-7. Alex Murphy was just 1-6 from the floor but had five boards and two steals.
Seth Curry returned to action, with 17 minutes but shot just 1-9 from the floor. That's not that big a deal since he's returning from an injury.
Quinn Cook continued his reversal of last year's spectacular Assist/Turnover ratio, with one assist and three turnovers in this one.
But perhaps the most intriguing storyline in this game was the performance of the freshmen, not counting Murphy, who is of course a redshirt freshman: Amile Jefferson finished 6-10 for 13 points, and Rasheed Sulaimon finished with 12 on 6-13. Jefferson grabbed five boards, three offensive, and the dynamic duo had three turnovers, two credited to Sulaimon.
Josh Hairston played 15 minutes and grabbed five boards. Tyler Thornton had a quiet offensive game but gave his usual effort on defense.
At this point, the team is probably a little ahead on defense, which is a plus. Offense will come in time, but defense is the constant.
What we're eager to see is how roles develop. At this point, we more or less know what to expect from Plumlee, Kelly, Thornton and Hairston.
What's really going to be fun is to see where Murphy, Cook, Sulaimon and Jefferson fit in (and later, when he returns, Marshall Plumlee).
What they want from Cook is obvious; what they're going to get from the other three is less clear. The talent for all three, though, is clear. They're all really good. How they're used is going to tell us a lot about how the season will unfold.