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Duke Downs A Stubborn Portland State 99-81

If you didn’t watch it you might think it was easy. Well it wasn’t.

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NCAA Basketball: Portland State at Duke
 Nov 23, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland State Vikings guard Deontae North (3) passes the ball against Duke Blue Devils center Marques Bolden (20) during the first half of the PK80 Phil Knight Invitational at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 
Joseph Weiser-USA TODAY Sports

If you watched this game with no idea of the teams involved and their rankings and reputations, you might have thought they were roughly even. And into the second half, that would have been understandable because Portland State played great.

Not good.


Portland State feasted on Duke’s defense to take a 49-45 lead into halftime.

After the half, Coach K put Marques Bolden and Alex O’ Connell in the starting lineup to replace Wendell Carter and Gary Trent, who had been ineffective in the opening half.

Still, Portland State kept the lead until the 15:40 mark when Wendell Carter put Duke in front.

The lead went back and forth for the next two minutes before Duke went out front 61-60 on another Carter basket.

Duke never trailed again.

Portland State was so impressive but it wasn’t too far into the second half that we were sure they were going to lose. Why?

Easy: foul trouble.

The Vikings had several players with three and in this sort of game, that’s almost always fatal. Your odds of pulling an upset go way down with foul trouble because the lesser team simply has less quality depth. You see this all the time in the NCAA tournament. The margin for failure is very thin.

Duke could have Bagley and Carter get in foul trouble and still have Bolden and Javin DeLaurier coming off the bench.

The trouble was compounded by two stupid plays by Deontae North: he drew one technical for swinging at Carter and another for something he said while he was waiting to check back into the game.

He got his first T (and third and fourth foul) at the 12:58 mark with Duke up just 63-60. Grayson Allen hit both free throws and Carter dunked to give Duke a seven point lead.

He got the second T with 8:58 left and wasn’t even in the game. Allen split those free throws and Carter dunked again to give Duke an eight point lead.

So the stupid plays gave Duke a total of seven points. Take those away and it could have been a one-point game.

The T parade wasn’t quite over though - Portland State’s Bryce Canda and Allen drew technicals on the same play with 2:19 left. Allen hit those free throws as well pushing the stupid penalty to nine.

Duke ended up winning by 18 so it was significant.

And as we said, the general foul trouble early in the second half meant it would be pretty much impossible for Portland State to pull off a shocking upset, but it’s that much harder when you give up 11% of your opponents points for free.

As well as the more experienced Vikings played early, Duke made up for it late.

Carter was a non-factor early but finished shooting 7-8 for 16 points and also had 10 boards. Bagley was even more impressive: the young big man racked up 18 points and 15 rebounds. Marques Bolden came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds in 18 minutes.

Trevon Duval scored 22 but had two assists to five turnovers.

Allen had 14 points and nine assists, which was pretty solid although he didn’t shoot well.

Trent was subbed out after the half but played smarter when he came in. He’s not a freakish athlete but he’s very smart and knows how to get a shot off and how to play against more athletic defenders. He just needs time to become more consistent.

As talented as they are, all the young players are in a very different environment. College basketball requires a radically higher level of intensity and Duke does to for two interrelated reasons: 1) Coach K demands it on a constant basis and 2) because he does, Duke gets everyone’s best shot.

There’s no way around that. As long as Duke is good, that’s going to happen. The young guys haven’t been around long enough to understand it fully but that’s just the way it is.

Tomorrow, Duke will get either Texas or Butler and the same thing will happen. It may take a serious whipping or two for it to sink in but the sooner the young players figure it out the better things will go for them.

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