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Duke Trees Stanford, 70-59

Blue Devils roll through the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and find a solid team with excellent chemistry.

Nov 22, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Quinn Cook (2) defends Stanford Cardinal forward Michael Humphery (10) during the first half at Barclays Center.
Nov 22, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Quinn Cook (2) defends Stanford Cardinal forward Michael Humphery (10) during the first half at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We've been watching Jahlil Okafor for a few games now and what impressed us most has been his agility. His footwork has been superb, as advertised.

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What we hadn't seen as much of is his power game - he is listed at 6-11 and 270 after all.

He brought that out against Stanford, and then some, and now it's pretty clear:

Okafor is part ballerina and part Grizzly Bear.

We saw it in his second-half blocked shot. We saw it in the ridiculously fast spin move he put on Stefan Nastic - just before falling over him. We saw it on multiple rebounds when he simply ripped the ball away or pulled it out of a crowd.

True, he had by his standards a very poor shooting night (4-10). But for the first time in his brief career, he asserted himself physically, and it was fun to watch. The offensive fluidity is remarkable. His fundamentals are way beyond his years. Seeing him use his body like that though made an impression on viewers and on a few Stanford defenders as well.

Nastic was an effective defender who got a lot of help from his teammates, especially rookie forward Travis Reid. Okafor was limited to 1-5 in the first 30 minutes or so. Eventually, Nastic fouled out and Reid picked three himself, and there was no one left to slow the dancing bear, who picked up eight points and six boards down the stretch.

Duke's best player against Stanford, though, was Quinn Cook.

The lone senior, Cook hit four threes, was perfect from the line (4-4) and finished with 18 points. He's playing with a ton of confidence and verve, and on a night when Duke was perhaps tired from playing five games since November 14th, leave alone traveling to Indianapolis and Brooklyn, his points were very welcome.

Duke as a whole shot just 39.3% - this after shooting 39.1% against Stanford.

In particular, Tyus Jones seemed a bit off. The star freshman point guard who has been getting better with each game took a step back against the Cardinal.

Jones played 26 minutes, missed all his shots from the floor, and had two assists and a very rare turnover. He also had three steals. It wasn't a terrible performance by any means, just not as good as he has shown to date.

Matt Jones had one of his better games, perhaps because he was a bit fresher than some of the starters. He shot well - 4-7 and 2-3 from deep - and attacked aggressively.

Rasheed Sulaimon also played well off the bench. At his best, he's an aggressive defender and can drive or pop. Stanford saw all of that.

Rounding out the rotation was Marshall Plumlee. He gets compared to his brothers a lot, which is inevitable - we've done it too - but he's quite different, far more aggressive.

In fact, having him come in for Okafor simply means more bruises. It can't be fun to have him pounding on you. The comparisons to his brothers may not be entirely apt, but you might consider him a more athletic form of Brian Zoubek, right down to the foot injuries. Zoubek was asked to do a few things well: rebound, pass out, defend, and show some power.

Plumlee has a similar ferocity and has more raw talent than Zoubek - a lot more, actually. Despite his size, for instance, Zoubek rarely dunked.

And the forwards played very well in this game, even though Justise Winslow, like Okafor, shot just 4-10 and just 2-7 from three point range.

Still, his athleticism and IQ are drawing raves. Winslow finished with 14 points and nine boards, but not as many people will pay attention to his four assists. That's too bad; it's a great asset. Winslow is averaging nearly three assists per game.

Okafor, who finished with 10 points and 12 boards (both he and Winslow finished with six offensive boards) is credited with nine assists per game which, instinctively, seems low. Perhaps we're giving him credit for  a pass which leads to an assist. He's shown a real knack for passing out of a double team to hit the open teammate.

The quietest starter, statistically, is Amile Jefferson, who is the one guy Coach K made clear would absolutely start, specifically because he's not quiet on the court.

Jefferson finished with nine points and seven boards and he's increasingly adept at receiving passes in the lane from Okafor and others for easy baskets. Moving back to his natural position is really helping his production.

We'd have to think about this a bit to be sure, but this may be the smartest Duke frontline since the Duke Power Company of 1978. That would take in a lot of great teams - 1986, 1991, 1999, 2001...but it's certainly up there.

Now Duke gets a few days to recover from a tough stretch and Thanksgiving games against Furman and Army and time to work out kinks and bugs.

And then it's off to Wisconsin, where the Dancing Bear will get his biggest test yet with Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky has improved each year at Wisconsin and the big man (7-0, 234) is currently averaging 17 points, 12 boards, 3.3 assists, nearly three blocks and a steal per game. He's also playing intelligently and has yet to draw more than two fouls in a contest.

Furman and Army give Duke two more chances to refine schemes and strategies, and aren't to be overlooked, but the Kaminski-Okafor matchup promises to be really, really good.