Illinois never trailed in defeating Duke 83-68 in Tuesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The visitors jumped on a shaky Duke team early and never let Duke back in the game.
Maybe it was the absence of the Cameron Crazies. Or maybe Illinois is simply that much better than Duke. It’s not often anyone jumps on Duke 15-2 anywhere, anytime. But it happened. After Matt Hurt tied the game at 2 with a jumper the Blue Devils missed four shots, with three turnovers added in, while Illinois was playing with an offensive efficiency that simply seemed beyond Duke.
“They came out with confidence,” Hurt said. “They hit a couple of 3s and that just helped them throughout the game.”
The game was over six minutes old before any Duke player other than Hurt scored.
“I think it’s ball movement,” Hurt said of the early offensive woes. “We’re a team and we have to score together.”
“On the offensive end, We are not confident,” Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged, “For whatever reason, we are not confident on that end of the court, I’ve got to do things to make sure they get that confidence. A lot of work to do.”
The closest Duke got in the first half after that opening drought was eight points on two occasions and Duke never scored more than four consecutive points in the opening stanza. Duke went into the locker room having missed all seven of its 3-pointers and notching only four assists.
The halftime score was 43-29.
Illinois gave Duke some chances early in the second half but Duke missed four straight foul shots and a couple of layups. Mike Krzyzewski noted that Jalen Johnson could have scored seven points right off the bat but came away empty. Down the road, Krzyzewski added , Johnson will get all seven of those but right now he’s still learning how to play through contact.
Jordan Goldwire scored five straight points to cut the margin to 10, at 48-38, sparking hope in the Duke faithful.
But Illinois responded with a 6-0 run. Duke competed hard, with freshmen guards Jeremy Roach and D.J. Steward making some big plays.
It’s a bit dismissive to say that the teams traded baskets in the second half because Duke was playing hard, waiting for a crack in Illinois’ armor, a loss of focus or intensity, something that would enable Duke to put on some serious game pressure. But Duke could never string together enough stops, could never put together a barrage of 3s against a determined Illini team that never really relinquished control of this game,
“We got beat by a team that’s better than we are,” Krzyzewski said, “older, more mature and they kind of imposed their will on us. We’re not as good as they are. And therefore you’ve got to be really smart, you’ve got to hit shots. We’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot to learn. I think we’re playing hard on the defensive end. We did some things defensively to put us in a position to put some game pressure on them but they always answered.”
Roach was certainly a bright spot for Duke, aggressively attacking the rim and posting a stat line of 13 points, four rebounds and seven assists.
“We’re going to continue to get better as the season goes on,” the defiant Roach said. “We’ll be good.”
It will certainly help if he plays like he did tonight.
“I felt like in my first three games I was kind of feeling it out, just kind of deferring to the older guys. But today I had to be in attack mode and I need to just do that the rest of the season.”
Assuming there is a rest of the season. Krzyzewski expressed some real concern over playing in the middle of a worsening pandemic, saying it doesn’t feel right to be playing right now.
“I would just like for the safety, the mental health, the physical health of our players and staff to assess where we’re at in our country today.. . . people saying the next six weeks are going to be the worst. To me it’s already pretty bad.”
Maybe wait for continued progress on the vaccine front, Krzyzewski suggested.
“Should we not re-assess that, see what would be best?”
Hurt led Duke with 19 points and seven rebounds. Steward added 13 points, including three second-half 3s. But Johnson, Goldwire and Wendell Moore shot a combined five-for-22 from the field, as Duke shot 40 percent from the field, 23 percent from beyond the arc and 56 percent from the line. That’s not good enough to beat a good team and Illinois is absolutely a good team, much better than good based on Tuesday’s outing.
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- BOX SCORE (PDF)
- POSTGAME NOTES (PDF)
- COACH K QUOTES (PDF)
- DUKE PLAYER QUOTES (PDF)
- OPPONENT QUOTES (PDF)
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Player of the Game vs. Illinois
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