"That was fun. A lot of fun." That's Jahlil Okafor's attempt at Understatement of the Year. Okafor and his Duke teammates had just tipped off the 2014-15 season with a 113-44 thrashing of Presbyterian.
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Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Presbyterian isn't very good. The Blue Hose do return four starters from last season; a fifth is out with an injury. But those guys managed six wins last season. They haven't had a winning season since 2007. They were overmatched in every aspect of the game.
And Duke wasn't perfect. The Blue Devils committed 10 fouls in the first half to Presbyterian's six and a couple of the reserves got trigger happy in the second half.
But if the worst thing you can say about a game is that your back-up power forward shot a few too many three-pointers, then you've had a pretty good night.
And a pretty good night it was. There's not much point in a play-by-play. It was tied at two, Duke led 12-2, then ended whatever sliver of hope possessed by the visitors with a 26-2 run that made it 38-8. The highlight of Presbyterian's night was a 6-0 run at the beginning of the second half that cut Duke's lead to 32.
Duke shot lights out, converting 61 percent from the field, 52 percent from beyond the arc and 81 percent from the line. Six Devils scored in double figures, with Okafor leading everyone with 19 points in 23 minutes, missing only one of 10 field-goal attempts.
In fact Duke's four freshmen combined for 67 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists. So much for first-game jitters.
But the jump shot can go away pretty quickly. Defense and rebounding are more reliable staples and Duke was superb in both areas. The Blue Devils owned the glass to the tune 46 to 21 and it was a team effort; six Blue Devils had at least four rebounds, led by Amile Jefferson's 10 in only 16 minutes.
Then there was the defense, the kind of hungry and aggressive Duke defense not seen all that often recently.
Mike Krzyzewski made no attempt to hide this season's attempt to return to the defensive dominance of days past.
"We can play defense. We haven't been able to play defense the way I would like for a while. . . . We've made a real commitment to getting back to our roots. That's the vision I have for the team and we have the ability to do it and the depth to do it. I like playing the style we're playing and they know I like it and they like playing it."
Quinn Cook says the key to Duke's defensive revival is trust. "We didn't let up. Our defense was outstanding. We know that our teammates are going to be where they're supposed to be."
Duke's defensive effort can be summed up in traditional ways. The Blue Hose missed all but one of their dozen three-pointers, shot 34 percent overall from the field and turned it over 17 times. Redshirt senior Jordan Downing averaged over 20 points per game last season but didn't hit his first field goal until the second half.
He ended with eight points.
But let me throw out another stat. Presbyterian called timeout with 16 minutes left, to avoid a five-second call on an inbounds. It was their fifth and final timeout. With 16 minutes left.
There was another eye-opening stat. Duke had 30 assists on 42 field goals and turned it over only nine times.
Krzyzewski has stressed sharing the ball and he was appreciative.
"We shared the ball real well. We really got great shots. We passed up some good shots for some great shots."
Six Duke players had three or more assists, led by Tyus Jones' seven.
Okafor had four of those assists, without a turnover, impressive for a freshman post player in his first game.
Krzyzewski went out of his way to praise Okafor's passing and poise. "He'll have to show that poise. He'll be playing against bigger people. For right now, he's done really well and the only way to improve is to play those better people."
That goes for the entire team. " They've got to find out who they are against better people. I just hope we keep learning. I think we have a chance to get better. "
If you left early, you missed a couple of eye-openers. Duke played zone much of the second half, mostly a 2-3 zone. I suspect it had a lot to do with holding down the margin against a game but overmatched opponent. But Krzyzewski said after the game that Duke has been working on the zone in practice and suggested that it might be in the playbook this season.
Marshall Plumlee nailed a three-pointer late in the game, barely beating the shot clock. It was the first three-point attempt of his career. Plumlee's seven rebounds matched his career best, set last season against Florida State.
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- Fairfield-Duke Preview
- Recap: Duke vs. Presbyterian
- Schramm: New-look Duke Blue Devils make big entrance
- WATCH: Justise Winslow rises for an alley-oop
- Jahlil Okafor is on a roll for Duke
- Freshmen Shine as Duke Beats Presbyterian 113-44
- Box Score: Duke 113, Presbyterian 44
- Photos: Duke 113, Presbyterian 44
- Notes: Duke 113, Presbyterian 44
- Quotes: Duke 113, Presbyterian 44