Although Duke didn't play well for much of the Hartford game, coming to life in the final 15:00 or so, there was one aspect of Duke’s performance that was astounding throughout.
We’re referring to the play of Tre Jones.
When you look at his stat line it doesn’t jump off the page: 5-9, three rebounds, six assists, two steals and, for him, a bad night with three turnovers.
That won’t jump out at you. Nonetheless, the young point guard in many ways played a masterful game.
First, he reminded us very much of his brother Tyus in his ability to goose his team when needed and his ability to step up in critical moments.
Duke won by 30 but there was a point in the second half when it was close and Hartford, stocked with seniors, was close to putting game pressure on Duke. There was a sense of urgency in the crowd.
Who gave Duke breathing room when it was needed? Jones, with a critical basket. Then for good meaure he did it again later.
Jones also provided outstanding ball pressure throughout the game. For us there was one play that was absolutely dazzling even though there were no points scored and no steal.
Instead it was a play that showed superb athleticism, dogged effort and great instinct.
In the first half, Hartford’s JR Lynch, a small and very quick point guard, was bringing the ball up court and he juked Jones and darted by.
Jones turned on a dime, caught up and ran so close to Lynch that he had to partially turn sideways in order not to foul him.
He did that and did it at full speed and kept going until he was back in front of Lynch.
Only a handful of guys are physically capable of that kind of speed. A smaller number are capable of that kind of speed while turning sideways and a smaller number still have the passion and determination to do it.
When Kyrie Irving was at Duke we saw one play that convinced us that he was a savant and that was when Michigan State tried to triple team him and he would not be trapped. He beat all three of them despite being surrounded in what should have been an ever-tightening box.
For our money, Jones showed us something just as spine-tingling in that play.
He won’t have the stunning dunks that high flying teammate Zion Williamson has every game and he won’t score like RJ Barrett.
But he will do what he does as well as any guard in the country and he has a chance to make Duke far more dangerous than it already is.