Well, we’re nine games in now and we’ve learned a few things. First, the easy lesson: this Duke team is really young and prone to mistakes and errors.
Second, this Duke team doesn’t always start up like a Tesla. It can take a few minutes to warm up and get going.
And third, at least so far, this Duke team does well under pressure and that’s not something you would expect from a team full of freshmen.
And fourth, having the best player in the country never hurts.
All those elements came into play at Assembly Hall Wednesday night as Duke defeated Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 91-81.
First, props to Indiana. When IU started the season with a 90-69 loss to Indiana State, like a lot of basketball people, we were stunned. Yes, it’s time to rebuild. Still: to Indiana Freaking State?
Larry Bird is not coming through that door people.
So immediately let’s give Archie Miller his due. He’s gone from that to going toe-to-toe with the best team in the country. Never been to a practice he’s run but you don’t have to be a genius to understand he’s a very effective and efficient teacher. His team has made dramatic progress.
More than that, watching the Hoosiers is fun. The shadow of Bob Knight still looms over that program and for all of his genius, Knight was never really fun. His teams were smart and accomplished but fun? They didn’t even have fun.
Well, fun is back. Miller’s team plays hard and with flair and passion. It looks like the start of a beautiful relationship.
Give him a year or two and Indiana will be a team even Bob Knight will want to watch.
On Wednesday, Indiana gave Duke all it could handle.
In the first half, IU got a lot of easy baskets, lots of backdoors and some threes. The team plays fast but under control.
It was an audacious performance.
Unfortunately for the IU faithful, it wasn’t quite enough.
It was a tight game until the last 5:09 or so.
Duke’s Wendell Carter hit a free throw to tie the score 75-75. Then Carter fouled De'Ron Davis, who missed both.
Then Carter made a three point play to give Duke a 78-75 lead.
Davis got back to the line and converted both, then Grayson Allen hit a three point to put Duke up 81-77 lead.
It wasn’t long before Bagley bagged another basket to push the lead to six. Gary Trent made a three point play to push the lead to nine at 86-77.
And basically, that was that.
Despite losing, Indiana made a real impression. The Hoosiers really played well together, showed heart and never gave up. We don’t know the Big Ten like we know the ACC, but we do know good coaching when we see it. We doubt any team in the conference has come as far and as fast as Indiana. As of now, it’s hard to imagine anyone else but Archie being Coach of The Year.
As far as Duke goes, we’ve got a lot to go on now. The pattern so far is pretty basic: Duke takes a while to get up to speed. It sometimes lets opponents pull ahead.
So far though, Duke has managed to reel them back in with a combination of rebounding, stiffer second half defense, keen shooting from Grayson Allen and big-time inside play from Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter. Duke’s been giving the ball to Bagley and letting him, like Shane Battier, just do things. Carter’s been more opportunistic, more predatory, but to the same end. Duke owns the boards in general but really owns them at the end.
We’ve talked about this before, how in years past Duke seemed to get every key late rebound. That’s magnified now.
And there’s one more element to this team that’s worth mentioning, and mind you this is without discussing the contributions of the bench, and that’s this simple fact: Gary Trent has not missed a free throw since the Utah State game and that’s the only one he’s missed period. He’s 25-26 from the line so far.
Allen is shooting near 90% too.
At some point, when a game is close late, those guys are going to be lethal weapons on the line.
To pick up a theme, Bagley and Carter were dominant. Both had double-doubles, with Bagley racking up 23/10 while Carter put up 18/12. That’s 41 points and 22 rebounds between the Duke’s Dynamic Duo.
They combined to shoot 17-24 from the floor. Carter had two blocks while Bagley had three assists.
As we’ve said before, the bench has some work to do and didn’t contribute a lot of points in this one. However, Javin DeLaurier defended well while he was in, Alex O’ Connell’s confidence continues to grow as does his role, and Marques Bolden showed enormous heart. Stats are not nearly as important as effort.
Duke doesn’t play again until Saturday and as we’ve noted before, one of the reasons Duke does well in early-season events is because of Coach K’s ability to time manage. Duke just get a lot more done in the same amount of time than most programs.
With a furious pace slowing down for a bit, Krzyzewski gets to go into K Labs and experiment for a while. He’ll be able to emphasize positive things, review tape on negative things and try some new things.
South Dakota State is Saturday’s opponent and we expect we’ll see some interesting wrinkles by then.
- Duke wins another tight one, this time against Indiana at Assembly Hall, 91-81
- Duke uses a late run to beat Indiana at Assembly Hall 91-81
- No. 1 Duke men's basketball holds off Indiana in first true road game of year
- BOX SCORE
- Duke won, but Hoosiers grow in toe-to-toe matchup with No. 1
- Doyel: IU basketball might not be a lost cause after all this season
- DUKE 91, INDIANA 81: Three observations from the magical evening that almost was
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