About six minutes into the second half of Duke’s 93-54 win over Furman, Furman’s best player, Stephen Croome had a breakway lay-up. The six-footer missed, grabbed the rebound, missed again, grabbed another rebound, missed again and did it all over again.
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I’ve not sure I’ve ever seen a player miss four shots in about 15 seconds.
It was that kind of a night for another contest against another game but overmatched opponent.
Why bother you might ask. Well, Duke played three games against good to very good competition last week, all away from Cameron and didn’t get back until around 4:30 Sunday morning. Mike Krzyzewski said Duke was really tired and it was important to be able to practice and play through that.
Duke had short but sharp practices. But Krzyzewski wasn’t sure how his young team would respond.
The answer was all in the positive. Duke jumped on top of the Paladins scoring the game’s first 13 points and building from there.
Duke dominated on defense, holding the visitors to just under 30 percent shooting in the first half. Furman coach Niiko Medved said he called "about two plays all night. I like to run motion and . . . I really wanted to how how we could get good shots by screening and reversing the ball. . . . Obviously, they’re very, very difficult to finish on in the paint."
On the other end Duke pounded the ball inside not only to Jahlil Okafor but also to Amile Jefferson. It was Jefferson’s 12 points that led everybody in the opening half. Krzyzewski called Jefferson’s performance "a heck of a game."
Okafor said the key was "to be aggressive," passing out of double teams and taking advantage of every opening he could find.
Duke led 50-22 at the half, as Krzyzewski experimented with lineups like a mad scientist. Marshall Plumlee and Semi Ojeleye were the first two players off the bench and Duke ended the half with a lineup in which 6-6 Justise Winslow was Duke’s tallest player; the possession ended with a Grayson Allen 3-pointer.
Medved said his team got more comfortable after intermission, except for Croone’s epically unfortunate sequence. Still, the Duke lead quickly reached 30 and hovered around 40 most of the way.
Okafor led everybody with 24 points, becoming the first Duke player to hit the 20-point barrier this season. Jefferson had 16 points and a dozen rebounds, with Okafor adding seven rebounds.
Most impressively the duo combined for 87 percent shooting from the field, Okafor 12-for-14, Jefferson 8-for-9.
Quinn Cook had five assists, Tyus Jones seven. Cook said Duke’s half-court offense has to start with the big guys. "We give them the ball where they need it and good things happen. It opens up everything, We’re always ready for a double because Jah is a good passer."
Duke assisted on 24 of its 38 field goals and turned it over only seven times.
Krzyzewski says his team loves playing together. "We have very unselfish guys,. We’ve been sharing the ball. It’s a very good thing. I hope we can continue to be that unselfish."
Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon came off the bench and gave Duke solid minutes.
Sulaimon had nine points and a couple of assists. "The thing I love about this team is that no one is satisfied," he said. "We’re 6-0 and there’s a plethora of things we can get better at. With our athleticism we should be one of the best defensive teams in the country. We’re focusing on continuing to build great defensive habits. Coach is challenging me and I’m trying to step up and meet the challenge. Coach trusts me to get things organized offensively and defensively for the second unit."
Then there’s Matt Jones, who knocked down four-of-five from beyond the arc. "He can shoot," Sulaimon says of his fellow Texan. "It was all in his head. We finally got him out of it. it’s great to see him playing like himself."
Mike Krzyzewski gave high praise to Cook, calling him "the key guy right now as far as bringing our whole group together. He’s made everybody feel comfortable."
Matt Jones made 3-of-21 three-pointers last season. He’s now 10-for-17 this season.
Plumlee made both of his foul shots, bringing him to 6-for-6 on the season. He was 6-for-17 last season, 0-for-8 the season before.