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Devils Down Boston College, 81-64

Boston College went down but the young Eagles made an impression.

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Jan 2, 2016; Chestnut Hill, MA, USA; Boston College Eagles guard Darryl Hicks (2) and guard Eli Carter (3) and Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) compete for the rebound during the first half of the game at Silvio O. Conte Forum.
Jan 2, 2016; Chestnut Hill, MA, USA; Boston College Eagles guard Darryl Hicks (2) and guard Eli Carter (3) and Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) compete for the rebound during the first half of the game at Silvio O. Conte Forum.
Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

With an 81-64 win over Boston College Duke became the first ACC team to win a road game this season.

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Duke started slowly, as did BC - the score was just 2-5 at the 16:21 mark - but defense and fast breaks helped Duke pull out in front by the under 12:00 timeout. But give BC credit, because they played really well early.

Duke ended up outshooting BC in the first half as the Devils hit 50% to 36% for the young Eaglets (both teams increased in the second half, with Duke finishing at 55.1% to BC's 42.9%).

Duke was up 18-17 after Garland Owens split a pair of free throws for Boston College and then Duke went on a free throw binge to get what Coach K calls separation.

Eight free throws later, Duke was up 26-17 and basically in control.

Duke took a 13 point lead into halftime and other than a nice BC rally midway through the second half, the night belonged to Duke.

What was pretty cool about this game from Duke's point of view was the continued solid play of Brandon Ingram - he finished with a game high 25 - and the continued emergence of Luke Kennard.

Kennard came to Duke with a reputation as a three point shooter, and even though he's been erratic we've seen that he's a good shooter. He came into this game shooting 93% from the foul line. You can't do that without being a really fine shooter.

It just hasn't clicked for him from outside yet.

In this game he was 1-5 from three point range, but it's not that big a deal and pales next to what is important: Kennard is growing increasingly comfortable at this level.

You can tell it in a number of ways, but here's one: he's gotten very comfortable taking the ball behind his back. He's fond of (and good at) dribbling behind his back to make some room. He's made that work a lot lately. He's also getting much more comfortable operating in and around the paint. With Amile Jefferson out, every inside basket is important. Kennard has really upped his game here.

Since Jefferson's injury, Kennard has scored 24, 18, 9 and 17 to average 21 ppg. So Jefferson's points, if not necessarily his efficiency, have been provided. Kennard has shot 19-38 in those games for 50%, which is really good, but Jefferson was hitting 68.3%, which is spectacular.

On the other hand, Jefferson has always struggled from the line, never hitting better than 61% in his freshman year.

In his early days at Duke, Coach K competed with some tough players who were not as talented as their ACC opponents. He made an intelligent compensation by really pushing his team to draw fouls, because when you can get to the line, it doesn't matter how high Michael Jordan or Ralph Sampson can jump.

With Kennard and Allen, who's shooting 86.8%, and Matt Jones, who's hitting 77.4% from the line, Duke can compensate for Jefferson's absence from the line as well.

Just as Kennard has grown comfortable, Ingram is beginning to dominate. He had another big game with 25 points (9-18 and 4-9 from deep) along with nine rebounds and three assists.

His offensive versatility is clear - he can hit threes, drive, handle the ball like a much smaller player - but his length is having an impact on defense too. There's no stat for deflections or causing second thoughts, but Ingram is forcing a lot of that sort of thing. He's pushing people to get around or over him.

Allen played well again too, hitting 5-8 for 17. Like Ingram, he grabbed nine boards. The emergence of Ingram and, lately, Kennard, have no doubt made his life easier.

So has Matt Jones. As a freshman, Coach K marveled that Jones never once had a bad practice. Last year he was a glue guy. He still is, but now it's more like epoxy. He continues to come through for Duke in different ways. He established himself as  defender early in his Duke career and now his offense is a big factor too. He finished with 16 points on 5-10 from the floor and 3-7 from deep.

Derryck Thornton had a quieter game but hit a key three to push Duke forward early when no one was hitting.

Marshall Plumlee had five rebounds and two steals and one point. Chase Jeter finished with two points on fouls shots, one board and a nifty block in traffic.

It was a good win for Duke and a chance to further define the team after Jefferson's injury. And we admire Boston College's competitive spirit, which was never clearer than in the second half.

Down 19 with 10:48 to go, the Eagles pushed back quick and had an eight point run in about a minute, cutting the lead to 11 and forcing a Duke timeout.

It's nothing huge in the big scheme of things, but we're sure that BC collectively understood that they could play with Duke, at least in short bursts.

Things will be different very soon as 12-2 Duke heads to Winston-Salem Wednesday, where the Deacons start a frontcourt that's 6-10, 6-9 and 6-5..but with big bodies on the bench.

Guarding those guys will be a real challenge for the perimeter-oriented Blue Devils, and this is a game Wake Forest can use to build its NCAA resume. Danny Manning has his guys believing. Better strap it on for Wednesday, because it's not going to be easy.