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It Wasn’t Pretty, But Duke Beat Southern 78-61

Massive kudos to the Jaguars for playing with so much confidence and composure.

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Southern v Duke
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 17: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils blocks a shot by Jamar Sandifer #10 of the Southern University Jaguars during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 17, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Just so I don’t bury the lede, Duke ran its record to 4-0 with a 78-61 win over Southern University Friday night.

It was not pretty. Duke came out flat as a pancake, flat as Kansas, flat as, well, you get the drift.

Duke never actually trailed, although it was tied as late as 27-27, after a 12-4 Southern run.

Duke led 42-32 at the break and by 15-20 points most of the second half.

Lots of reasons, youth, travel fatigue, a hangover from the big win against Michigan State.

But I think Mike Krzyzewski hit the nail on the head when he said, “they thought it would be easier than it was.”

As did we all. After all, the winless Jaguars came in to Cameron with a resume that includes a 47-point loss to Illinois and a 28-point loss to Missouri State.

It took Mike Krzyzewski all of 2:43 to tell that something was awry. That’s when he called a timeout, telling his team to stop leaking out on shots and attack the glass.

Attacking the glass was one of the few things Duke did well. Both Wendell Carter, Jr. (20 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks) and Marvin Bagley III (19 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks) had double-doubles.

In fact, the duo scored Duke’s first 19 points, a streak not broken until Alex O’Connell hit a foul shot 10 minutes into the game.

If you had O’Connell in the office pool, I hope you use your powers for good.

Still, Bagley and Carter were good enough to put Duke up 10-3, 15-7, 21-13.

It was no accident the bigs made the early impact.

“We didn’t get a lot of open looks,” Grayson Allen said. “We need to get it to the big guys, we have to do that and they have to demand the ball. We have to go through them.”

But Duke kept missing from the line and kept missing from outside, as the visitors hung around. A 3-pointer by Richard Smith tied the game at 25 with seven minutes left in the half and another jumper by Smith tied it at 27.

Duke finally got some separation right before the half. Gary Trent, Jr. hit a 3 and Allen scored his first points, a layup in transition after a monster Bagley block spiked the ball well past midcourt.

Trevon Duval and Trent again hit 3-pointers and Duke took its first double-digit leads.

The lead could have been bigger had Duke not missed nine of 21 foul shots and turned it over nine times, most of them unforced.

Allen said halftime was all about intangibles, nothing about X’s and O’s.

“We didn’t even run plays in the second half. Just move the ball, find the open man and play defense.”

Carter dominated inside early in the second half, four blocks in the first 1:42. The lead hit 15, then 20, peaking at 77-55. Southern kept it close by knocking down 3-pointers, frequently as the shot clock expired.

Credit to Southern. They came to play.

A lesson to be learned, to be sure. “We just didn’t come out ready,” Trent said. “But we got the W and we’ll continue to get better every day. We’ll go and have a great practice tomorrow and continue to work at getting better.”

Allen called it “fighting human nature.”


Krzyzewski said due to NCAA rules that Duke did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but showed up at 7:30 this morning for a shot-around. Traveling to and from Chicago did not count as an off-day, necessitating an off-day yesterday.

Duke will practice tomorrow and the entire team will attend memorial services for Capel, Jr. on Sunday.

Trent’s shot was off; he scored only eight points. But he grabbed 10 rebounds.

“Whenever, I’m out there and my shot’s not falling, I try to make an impact on the game, whether it’s defense or rebounding, getting stops, being an all-around player, not just a scorer.”

Krzyzewski said that Duke needs more rebounding efforts like that from Trent.

With three players in double figures, Duke outrebounded Southern 51-34. But Krzyzewski was unhappy that Duke’s 14 assists were paired with 15 turnovers. Duval and Allen led Duke with four assists. Duke only notched three steals.

The Blue Devils were 4-20 on 3-pointers, 0-9 down the stretch and 24-37 from the line.

Southern’s bench outscored Duke’s 37-11.