Duke ran its record to 6-1 with a convincing 85-52 win over Utah State Sunday afternoon.
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The senior-laden Aggies came into Cameron 4-0 and the preseason third-place pick in the Mountain West Conference.
But they were barely competitive after taking early leads at 2-0 and 6-4. Duke used a 7-0 run to get separation in the first half and blew the doors off after intermission, turning a 38-27 half-time lead into a 54-27 chasm in less than five minutes.
Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard led everyone with 22 points. Allen has being doing that sort of thing on a regular basis recently. In fact, scoring 22 points actually dropped his season average a bit.
But Kennard came into the game shooting only 33 percent on the season, a miserable 4-23 on 3s.
Kennard entered the game six minutes in, with Duke up 16-8. He hit a 3-pointer three minutes later to make it 21-12 and it was off to the races.
Kennard said hitting that first shot gave him confidence and it showed, as he ended the game 7-for-9 from the field, 4-5 from beyond the arc.
"Shooters can have an off night--I had a few in a row, just to start the season, but we're going to build off of what we did today, keep working hard and we’ll see how it goes."
Ironically, Kennard did choose this game to miss a foul shot, after making his first 15. He ended the game 4-5 from the line and is 18-19 on the season. I suspect Duke will take 94 percent for the remainder of his career.
Mike Krzyzewski said Kennard continued to work hard in practice and added that Kennard is still catching up to the speed of the college game, comparing it to driving in the left lane after driving in the right lane in high school.
Kennard wasn’t the whole show of course. Allen managed to miss three shots in the opening minute--they were all good shots--but didn’t let it slow him down in the least. Allen shot 8-15 from the field and 4-4 from the line and added five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block.
Amile Jefferson helped Duke establish interior dominance. Jefferson scored six of Duke’s first nine points, with a Marshall Plumlee three-point play accounting for the rest.
"The looks were just there," Jefferson said. "For me, it’s just about making reads and seeing what’s there. We have a lot of guys who can score, so when I have the ball, I’m looking for them but always being cognizant of how my guy is covering me."
Duke had a comfortable lead at the half but put on a clinic at the beginning of the second half. Allen got the first four points, Plumlee finished a dunk after a great assist from Matt Jones and Jones and Allen followed with 3-pointers.
It took Duke less than three minutes to extend its lead from 11 to 23.
An unhappy Utah State coach Tim Duryea sad it wasn’t a matter of Xs and Os but rather fight and he felt his team simply didn’t compete during this crucial stretch.
"A disappointing performance from our perspective. We are a better program than that and I thought we were extremely selfish offensively and soft defensively and just a performance not to be proud of."
Duke continued to dominate, building its biggest lead at 83-43 and 85-45. It got a bit meandering down the stretch--unless you’re big fan of fouls and missed free throws--but it’s hard to disagree with Mike Krzyzewski’s assessment that Duke "played well today. We played start to finish on both ends of the court. We were really efficient and our defense was good. Our offensive execution, especially at the start of the second half, was terrific."
Allen and Kennard were joined in double figures by Jefferson, who just missed a double-double, with 13 points and nine rebounds. Jefferson had his hands on that elusive 10th rebound seconds before taking a seat for the final time.
Marshall Plumlee ended with nine points and eight rebounds. Duke’s two most experienced players combined to go 9-10 from the field, 4-4 from the line, 22 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and four steals.
Jefferson was most pleased with the defensive disruption he and Plumlee caused.
"That’s me and Marshall’s job to protect the paint and I thought today we did a really good job of it, not letting the other team get any good looks at the basket."
Brandon Ingram added eight points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
Matt Jones lost his grandfather last week and said he had trouble focusing. He credited "the people around me, the coaches, my teammates, made it easier to come out and play the game."
Duke has won 120 consecutive home games against non-ACC teams, a streak that should be challenged by Indiana Wednesday night.
Allen is now 45-49 from the charity stripe on the season, 90-102 for his career.
Jefferson’s nine rebounds give him 74 in seven games, an average of 10.6 per game. He is shooting 33-47 from the field.