Defense, depth, rebounding, balance. That hasn't always been Duke's recipe this season. But Duke did lots of things well Tuesday night against Michigan, leading the entire game and winning 79-69 over last season's NCAA runner-up.
There are several storylines. Michigan's Nick Stauskas came into the game averaging over 20 points per game. He scored four against Duke in 36 minutes, all from the line.
Mike Krzyzewski said that limiting Stauskas was a big deal. "One of the keys was trying to limit Stauskas. We felt coming into this game that he was the best two guard we had faced so far this season. We didn't give him any 3s in transition. In the half-court there was an emphasis on keeping the ball out of his hands and keeping him away from his normal operating area."
Krzyzewski singled out Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones for their efforts on Stauskas but added that Duke "played so hard on defense. Our defense was outstanding."
Duke also got contributions from nine players. It wasn't the Jabari and Rodney show. Parker and Hood weren't bad-they combined for 29 points and 11 rebounds-but they weren't transcendent either. Michigan coach John Beilein said his team was "not going to give them a lot of space. We were not going to let them beat us."
But Duke found other weapons.
The defenses dominated early. A Tyler Thornton 3 put Duke up 8-2 and the Blue Devils extended their lead to 21-9 14 minutes into the game. That's right. Michigan scored nine points in the first 14 minutes of the game.
Beilein attributed that to Duke's defense on Stauskas and "a couple of turnovers from young people. We had a bad offensive first half."
Marshall Plumlee made an early impact, entering the game after five minutes and throwing his weight around with some effectiveness. In fact, Plumlee and Matt Jones were Duke's first two subs.
But Michigan hung around, aided by a Quinn Cook technical for throwing the ball at Michigan's Jon Horford after a hard foul. The Wolverines used a late 7-2 run to close to seven points but another Thornton 3 pushed the lead back into double digits, 32-22 at the half.
Duke outrebounded Michigan 23-15 in the first half and held their pre-season All-American Mitch McGary to three points.
Hood (10) and Parker (8) accounted for the bulk of Duke's first-half scoring. Cook facilitated much of that with six assists but missed all three of his shots, all from beyond the arc.
So, Krzyzewski told him to shoot more. "In the first half, I was losing confidence in my jumper," Cook said. "Coach got on me at halftime. Keep shooting. Guys kept feeding me the ball, they had confidence in me."
Cook finally got on the scoreboard after a steal and layup made the score 38-28. He then fed Plumlee for a layup, hit a jumper, and then another lay-up. 44-35.
But Michigan started going to sophomore break-out wing Caris LaVert, who averaged all of 2.3 points per game last season. But Duke couldn't keep LaVert away from the rim.
He scored seven points in less than four minutes and suddenly it was 46-40, with nine minutes left.
It wasn't Parker, Hood or even Cook who plugged the dike.
Duke inserted Andre Dawkins, scoreless up to that time, in minimal playing time. He responded with back-to-back bombs. "We called a set for Andre," Krzyzewski said. "Those two 3s were just huge. They had the momentum of coming back and they're a championship-level program and they're going to making a push right now and Andre boom boom put us up by 12."
It took all of 42 seconds and the lead was back to a dozen. "When I go in, I pretty much know I'm going to get an opportunity to gets shots," Dawkins said. "It's just a matter of being ready and prepared for my shot."
He even added a two-pointer inside, off the dribble.
Cook said Duke learned its lessons from letting East Carolina and Vermont back into games that appeared to be over. "Today we didn't let up because we were conscious of what we had done before."
It helped that Michigan kept fouling Cook and he kept knocking down freebies. He went to the line 10 times in the second half and made all 10.
The lead peaked at 68-50, with two minutes left. Duke got careless on the defensive boards and Michigan got six put-back points in the final 37 minutes, making the final a bit more respectable.
Cook ended with 24 points-all in the second half, nine assists and two steals. Parker and Amile Jefferson led Duke with six rebounds. Jefferson added six points, two assists, a block and a steal off the bench.
LaVert led Michigan with 24, while McGary finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, much of which came after the outcome had been decided.
Duke forced 12 turnovers, while committing only seven.
Krzyzewski focused on Duke's rapidly improving defense. "We're getting cohesive. We're getting to know each other better. The best way we can become cohesive is on the defensive end."
Rasheed Sulaimon had a DNP-CD, did not play, coach's decision. When asked about Sulaimon, Krzyzewski said he would play when he was playing better than the guys ahead of him.
Krzyzewski said Duke would take tomorrow off and work around exams for the next week or so. Duke doesn't play again until they host Gardner-Webb December 16.
The win moves Duke to 22-8 against Michigan. Duke is 13-2 in Big Ten/ACC Challenge games, 6-0 in Cameron.