May you live in interesting times.
One of these days Duke will have a normal game.
But Saturday wasn’t that day.
Duke did defeat Boston College 93-82 to run its record to 14-2, 2-1 in the ACC.
We knew going in that Jeff Capel would be at the Duke helm, with Mike Krzyzewski recovering from Friday’s back surgery.
We also knew that the visitors were bringing a heathy dose of New England weather with them, sleet, snow, dangerous roads, and daytime temperatures in the 20s, all of which suppressed the Cameron crowd, a good many of whom aren’t really crazy after all and stayed home.
But we didn’t know that Amile Jefferson would go out with another in a seemingly endless series of foot injuries, we didn’t know that Luke Kennard would score a single second-half point and we certainly didn’t know that Duke would lose most of a 24-point second half lead before stabilizing in the final minute.
Jim Christian is in his third season at BC and has had to scramble his first two campaigns, with overmatched players and grad-student stopgaps. But he’s got some real talent now, young talent but enough to beat Syracuse earlier this season and enough to push Duke harder than most expected.
Capel stuck with the Grayson Allen-Luke Kennard-Jayson Tatum-Harry Giles-Amile Jefferson starting lineup used earlier in the week against Georgia Tech,
Duke got off to a sloppy start, two turnovers and two fouls in the first 90 seconds and fell behind 11-6, with freshman Ky Bowman scoring nine of those 11 for the visitors.
BC’s last lead was at 14-13 before Duke went on a 22-2 run to open a 35-16 lead, a surge fueled by turnovers and three-pointers
Jefferson had 11 points in 13 minutes before landing awkwardly after a shot. He was taken immediately to the locker room and watched the second half from the bench.
Extent of injury? TBD.
“It was tough,” Capel said of losing Jefferson. “Amile is as important as anyone on the team. When he went down, a lot of stuff changed for us. . .. It hurt us offensively, it hurt us defensively, it hurt us everywhere.”
Still. Duke spent most of the first half doing what it wanted, 15 assists on 19 field goals, 11 steals, 17 BC turnovers.
There was some slippage late, BC scoring the final six points of the half, to make it 53-34.
But it seemed like a blip on the radar, especially after Allen scored seven quick points to put Duke up 65-41, with 16:31 left.
That’s when the wheels started to come off.
Duke seemed content to trade baskets, an okay strategy with a 20-point lead as long as your shots are going in. But the Blue Devils went as cold as the arctic tundra outside Cameron, missing 10 straight field goals over a six-minute span, seven of the misses from beyond the arc.
“We stopped defending in the second half,” Allen acknowledged, “and we just got into a game of who is going to outscore the other.”
While all this was going on, Duke’s freshmen bigs were being exposed on defense and kept picking up fouls. BC was in the bonus before Duke, in the double bonus before Duke. Marques Bolden picked up four fouls in seven minutes, Giles fouled out with just under four minutes left, albeit after playing a season-high 24 minutes.
Duke played the final 3:41 with Tatum at the center spot.
BC got the margin to 15 with 7:11 left, to eight with 4:51 left. They had the ball down 87-80 with just under a minute remaining but missed a layup, after which Duke closed with six of eight from the line, for the final score.
Lesson learned? Tatum thinks so. “We can always play better, especially that second half. It’s just something that we can learn from as we keep moving forward. There was a point in the second half when we got kind of stagnant. . .. We have a lot of young guys on our team so we’re all new to this.”
Capel said it was “a game to learn from.” With the gauntlet that looms ahead for Duke, let’s hope so.
Grayson Allen had a career-high nine assists at the half and ended with 11, the final total held down by the pesky fact that someone on the other end of the pass has to make a field goal for an assist to be recorded.
Duke ended with 20 assists, only five after intermission. The Blue Devils shot 63 percent from the field in the opening stanza, 46 percent in the second half after starting off 6-8.
Tatum led Duke with 22 points, including 9-10 from the line, four straight in the final minute.
“It was big for us,” Capel noted. “He wanted to be in that position.”
He was joined in double figures by Frank Jackson (15), Allen (12), Giles (12), Jefferson (11) and Matt Jones (10). Kennard ended with nine points, missing a foul shot with 19 seconds left that would have given Duke seven double-figure scorers for the second consecutive game.
Duke was outrebounded 36-27 and allowed 14 second-chance points, while gaining one. Tatum led Duke with six rebounds, exactly half of the total grabbed by grad-student Maurice Jeffers.
Boston College shot 56 percent from the field in the second half and turned it over only four times after intermission.
Their leading scorers are both from North Carolina. Sophomore Jerome Robinson scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half. He’s from Raleigh. Bowman, a guard from Havelock, added 19.
Duke is 20-2 against Boston College, having won the last 11.
- Box Score
- Duke has to sweat out win vs. BC in Jeff Capel's 1st game subbing for Coach K
- Duke Holds Off Late BC Run, Hands Eagles Second ACC Loss
- RECAP: Boston College Men's Basketball Doomed By First Half
- Amile Jefferson injures right foot in the first half
- Expectations for Duke Basketball Without Mike Krzyzewski
- Capel takes over for Coach K, Jefferson injures foot in win over BC
- Tatum, Allen Lead Duke Past Boston College 93-82
- Jefferson exits with apparent first-half injury as Duke men's basketball holds off Boston College
- ACC: Inconclusive if Duke's Allen tried to trip foe
- Harry Giles trending upward at critical time for Duke
- Why Duke, by Harry Giles