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Duke Knocks Down NWMSU, 93-60

Some growing pains to be sure but Duke is going to be good.

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Mike Krzyzweski
Coach K and Duke rolled Friday night against North West Missouri State.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Not many people would have expected Northwest Missouri State to keep up with Duke. They’re a really solid program and the defending national champions, but that’s D-II. And though we know those guys work just as hard as D-I guys, the bottom, inescapable line is that they’re working with less.

That’s the basic reality in any game between a D-II program and an elite D-I program like Duke, Kentucky or Kansas. So the measure isn’t just in how much the better team wins by but rather what you see in that big win.

So while Duke won by 33 (93-60), that’s expected. That’s not the story.

The story is what we saw from individual players who are aspiring to play part of the group.

You can break that down a bit further still. Yes Duke’s players were more talented, but in general, Duke had better basketball players too.

The Blue Devils started Grayson Allen and four freshmen.

The immediate reaction to Allen’s play was simple: he’s back. Healthy again, Duke’s senior captain was superb.

He shot 9-15 for 26 points, had five rebounds and three assists. The hobbled guy we saw last year was nowhere to be found.

As for the freshmen starters, Trevon Duval played fairly well and mostly within himself. He got in a couple of situations where he got a bit too slick and left himself with limited options.

Even so, he mostly got out of them, finishing with five assists and one turnover. He also defended Bearcats star Justin Pitts, and helped hold him to 3-14 for seven points.

Gary Trent, Jr. shot 7-9, mostly midrange shots, and finished with 15. He was really impressive offensively. A lot of modern basketball is about either threes or jamming. His game is more subtle than that. He’s going to be really good.

The big guys were not exactly what we expected either.

We assumed Wendell Carter, Jr. would be solid inside. We had seen enough video to know he was agile. We expected solid rebounding and defense (and he did well in both departments.

What we didn’t expect to see was some of his post moves and in particular his jump hook. That’s going to be a really good weapon for Duke this year. We were also impressed with his footwork. He finished with 11 points (5-7) and grabbed nine rebounds.

As for Marvin Bagley, he started slow but showed plenty. He hit a three (as did Carter by the way), finished with 16 points on 6-10 from the floor, had six rebounds and two assists.

We want to talk about one in particular because it showed that Bagley, whatever physical talents he has, and he has a lot, also has a head for the game and not every big time athlete does.

He was on the edge of the lane with his back to the basket and was holding the ball. He wasn't rushing or trying to bull his way to the basket. When the game gave him an opportunity, he whipped a cross-court pass to Allen in the corner for a sweet shot.

That showed us as much as anything about his game. It was patient and smart. He doesn’t have to score to affect the game. It actually reminded us of the guy who let him wear #35: in a game early in Danny Ferry’s career, he was triple-teamed down low. Somehow he found a way to get the ball out to an open teammate.

It was just a really smart play. We saw a bit of that in Bagley’s pass.

Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier were the first two guys off the bench and they were both really solid.

Bolden finished with six points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. He wasn’t tentative like he was last season after his injury set him back. Duke loses nothing with him on the court.

As for DeLaurier, we saw flashes of what he could do last season but his rawness and injuries set him back.

This year though the energy and athleticism he has really shone through. Twice he chased guys down on the break. He was only credited with one block but he changed shots.

DeLaurier finished with nine points and seven rebounds. He even hit a three pointer. He’s really improved and his defense is going to get him serious minutes.

As far as the other guys go, the big surprise, to us, was how solid Jordan Goldwire appears. For a guy who was recruited as insurance he looked like a pretty steady point guard.

Again, you have to keep in mind that the competition wasn't the Golden State Warriors, but even so, Justin Robinson played like a guy who has worked really hard. He is clearly more powerful than he was last year and is willing to drive. He had four points and three rebounds in eight minutes.

Alex O’ Connell played 14 minutes but didn’t scratch other than one rebound.

Like Robinson, Antonio Vrankovic has clearly put in time in the weight room and it’s paying off. He didn’t have a huge impact statistically but he didn’t hurt his team either.

Jack White played seven minutes and recorded a block.

For whatever reason, freshman Jordan Tucker played just four minutes. We expect he’ll get more minutes as time goes on. He had two rebounds and a block.

There was a lot in this game to be encouraged about. Coach K said this afterwards:

“ Overall tonight was good. We beat a really good team. There’s a reason they were National Champions last year and they have a chance to do it again this year.

Their offense is so well conceived. They move you around, and for our big guys early on that was a big challenge because you are accustomed to playing somebody in the post and all of a sudden you’re chasing a 3-point shooter and their center is like a second point guard. That was a good offense for us to try to defend.

Initially we didn’t defensive rebound very well, but then after 10 minutes we did. We have seven freshmen, they’re nervous, some of them.

Trevon (Duval) had a terrific game. He made some really simple, great passes and then guarding their best player...and he did a good job on him.

Gary (Trent Jr.) and Grayson (Allen) form a really good team on the perimeter.

Overall, I’m pleased. We’re going to come back tomorrow morning and watch tape early at 10:00 and then practice and try to simulate what we will do those first two games when we start the season. Younger guys, even older guys, you play one night and you have to be ready to play the next day, so we’ll see how our practice is tomorrow.”

What we won't see right away is how this group reacts to a high level of competition. So while there were some really good signs, as Coach K said, we won't get a real sense of this team for a while yet. The early signs, however, are good.

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