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Duke Bears Down On Maine, 94-55

And got two of the Walking Wounded back for good measure.

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NCAA Basketball: Maine at Duke
At last! Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden saw time for Duke against Maine.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Six weeks ago Duke’s first ever meeting with Maine looked like one of the least-interesting games on Duke’s schedule.

But that was then. This is now. And Saturday night’s now saw Duke sitting out Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson, while freshmen Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden made their regular-season debuts.

The outcome was never in doubt. The final score was 94-55. Maine came into the game 2-5, with losses to such notables as LIU-Brooklyn and Central Connecticut State.

Duke started Chase Jeter, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Luke Kennard and Tatum. Kennard carried Duke early, scoring Duke’s first nine points en route to a career-high 35 points.

Tatum got on the board about six minutes into the game, with a layup. Tatum played 20 minutes, scored 10 points, with eight rebounds and didn’t shoot all that well.

Tatum admitted he wasn’t sharp—rust never sleeps and all that.

“I was a little nervous but more excited than anything. Just excited to be playing basketball. I was just taking my time, being extra careful. A little rusty, very rusty actually. I just need to get in shape, to get back to playing basketball. “

Mike Krzyzewski praised Tatum’s aggressiveness.

“He can be a lot. We won’t put any limits on what he can be. . . . He had a mindset of attacking and I like that. He showed that he was not afraid.”

Tatum went down in the second half with a cramp in his right calf and didn’t return. But it’s a conditioning issue, nothing related to his foot sprain.

Bolden came off the bench and quickly committed a couple of turnovers. But he had seven points and five rebounds in a dozen minutes before being felled by fatigue. Krzyzewski said Bolden hasn’t done anything for weeks.

Duke never trailed. But Maine punched above their weight during the first half—46-32 at intermission-largely on the shoulders of Ilker Er, a 6-6 native of Istanbul, who scored 20 of the Black Bears’ first-half points. Er went all Bootsy Thornton on Duke early, hitting jump hooks in the lane, banking in a 3 from the top of the circle, and clearing out Amile Jefferson with one arm while getting a tap-in with the other hand; the usually unflappable Jefferson became flapped and picked up a technical.

Kennard said Duke started “a little slow. We gave up some shots we shouldn’t have gave up. We didn’t play our kind of defense and didn’t share the ball as well as we should.”

Kennard ended the half with a running 30-footer and Duke carried that momentum into the second half. Maine coach Bob Walsh said Duke wore down his team and “kind of took our spirit away” in the second half. In fairness to Maine they have some injury issues of their own.

Kennard and Jefferson had great stat lines but Krzyzewski added Matt Jones to the trio of Blue Devils who kept things on an even keel, with some unusual combinations.

And there were some unusual combinations. Duke went from a team with lots of perimeter options but few post options to the exact opposite. Kennard and Jones played all the way until the games’ final six minutes, when both took a seat and Jefferson took over at point in a lineup that included Jack White, Jeter, Javin DeLaurier and Antonio Vrankovic.

Duke’s nominal post players gave Duke 100 minutes.

Kennard ended shooting 11-16 from the field (4-9 from beyond the arc) and 9-9 from the line, with a couple of assists and nary a turnover.

It’s hard to argue with that stat line. But Jefferson continues to play as well as anyone on the team. Try this on for size; 20 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, 8-11 from the field and 4-4 from the line.

Jefferson says he get some work at point in practice, while Krzyzewski says Duke trusts his decision making and looks for ways to take advantage of mismatches.

“We’re going to have to work through the coaches,” Jefferson said of integrating the newcomers, “let them make the adjustments. We have a lot of tools in the toolbox, one game go to the hammer, one game go to the screwdriver.”

Duke hits the road again. We won’t see them in Cameron until December 19 against Tennessee State and good lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we should see the entire team. Expect Allen (turf toe on the side of the toe) and Jackson (slight foot problem) to be back next week. Harry Giles had his first five-on-five practice this week and should hit the court for real after exams.


Duke outrebounded Maine 49-22, with Kennard adding eight to Jefferson’s nine and Tatum’s eight. Kennard has 60 rebounds in nine games, trailing only Jefferson’s 88.

Er ended the game with the same 20 points he ended the half with.

Mike Krzyzewski spent much of the post-game talking about recently deceased Keith Brodie. Krzyzewski credited Brodie for helping him recover from his 1994-’95 health crisis and said that Brodie was the smartest person he had ever met, quite high praise considering that Krzyzewski has spent over 40 years at either the United States Military Academy or Duke University.

Krzyzewski said that he supported Maine’s pre-game display against HB-2, while noting that Duke, the Duke basketball program and the Duke head coach had long made known their disdain for the legislation.