Young but talented. Talented but young.
We’ll hear variations of that narrative all season. But the young part should go away and the talented part will not.
That’s about the best take away from Duke’s 92-74 opening-night win over a game but overmatched Siena team. It wasn’t as close as the final score suggests, not after the opening few minutes.
Duke started slow, finished slow and dominated the middle 30 minutes. Siena started four juniors and a senior. Duke responded with about as experienced a lineup as Mike Krzyzewski could put on the floor, grad student Marshall Plumlee, senior Amile Jefferson, junior Matt Jones, sophomore Grayson Allen and freshman Brandon Ingram. Freshmen Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton were the first reserves, freshman Chase Jeter was the eighth man and no one else played until the very end.
Krzyzewski said Siena used their experience against Duke’s youth.
"They’re a veteran team and I thought they played that way. They were more physical than we are, especially when we go young. That’s the biggest thing that our young guys have to get accustomed to. They’re going to play against people who are going to be more physically mature than them."
Duke jumped to a 9-4 but a 6-0 Siena run gave them their only lead of the game, at 15-13.
The lead didn’t last long. Thornton knocked down a 3.
That’s when Grayson Allen took over, going coast-to-coast after a defensive rebound, finishing with a thunderous tomahawk dunk in traffic to put Duke up 18-15. He added two foul shots for 24-15, a 3-pointer for 29-18, rinse and repeat.
Allen ended the half with 20 points, as Duke finished on a 31-12 surge for a 44-27 lead.
Jefferson had plenty of help, especially from Jefferson, obviously suffering no lasting impact from his sprained ankle. Jefferson scored on post-ups, offensive rebounds and drives, 10 points and six rebounds at intermission.
"My confidence is good," Jefferson said. We wanted to be aggressive and I was just taking what the defense was giving me."
Duke extended its lead for most of the second half, going up 88-59 with 4:42 left.
That final 4:42 wasn’t very pretty. Krzyzewski said of that sequence "we played horribly." Siena got some hustle rebounds, buried some 3s and the final margin ended up 18.
A teachable moment.
The veterans clearly set the pace for Duke. Allen ended with 26 points, including a second-half slam in traffic that might have surpassed his first-half highlight. Jefferson equaled his career-high of 19 points and led everyone with a dozen rebounds, the sixth double-double of his career.
"Overall we played well," Krzyzewski summed up. "Amile and Marshall played terrific inside. Grayson was explosive and played with amazing vigor. Matt played like a veteran, playing hard, talking. He doesn’t know how many points he scored. Grayson was spectacular. That shouldn’t be a surprise."
Duke only tallied nine assists. Krzyzewski attributed this to the game plan.
"We scored off the dribble. Our thing was to drive. If Brandon goes 5-9 from 3, if Derryck makes more than one, then we have 15 assists. The assists were there, the shots just didn’t go in."
Duke did struggle from beyond the arc, 6-25, including a dismal 1-9 from Ingram. Krzyzewski didn’t criticize the shot selection but noted than Ingram seemed to be able to get to the rim with ease and needed to take that opportunity.
Siena coach Jimmy Patsos was a long-time assistant for Gary Williams at Maryland, so he knows his way around Cameron. He said he hoped for a closer game but accepted the talent differential. "I thought that we fought for 40 minutes. They’re really talented, they’re long, they’re defensive, they’re big."
Krzyzewski said he thought the freshmen "were a little nervous" and "hang their hats too much on whether the ball goes in."
Jefferson thought some valuable lessons were learned. "They [Siena] have men. They have older guys. I thought our guys did a great job of settling down and playing Duke basketball for most of the game."
Duke will be back in action less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the opener, hosting Bryant College, so it’s learn on the fly for the freshmen.
The win was Duke’s 34th straight home-opening win. Krzyzewski’s only loss in a home opener came against Vanderbilt in the 1981-’82 season, Krzyzewski’s second season at Duke. Duke has won 16 consecutive season openers.
Duke has now won 117 consecutive home games against non-ACC competition. Duke has won 96 of its last 100 games in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Siena got a late basket from Cameron Gottfried, son of N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried.
- Grayson Allen's 26 points lead No. 5 Duke men's basketball past Siena in season opener
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- Opening night impressions: Allen shines, Kentucky has growing pains
- Fun, relaxed Grayson Allen is at his best as Duke drills Siena
- Allen’s 26 helps lead Duke to 92-74 win over Siena in season opener
- Duke freshmen leave room for improvement
- Box Score