Boston College is an ice-hockey school. So, maybe that explains the cold shooting.
Or maybe it really was a trap game.
But—and I know I repeat myself-never take an ACC road game for granted, even when you’ve already beaten the other team by 39 points earlier in the season, perhaps especially when you’ve already beaten the other team by 39 points earlier in the season.
Human nature 101.
So, as poorly as Duke played at times, it’s better to play poorly and win then play poorly and lose. Duke 63 Boston College 55 still counts as a win, one that extends Duke’s winning streak to four and runs the Blue Devils record to 19-3, 9-2 in the ACC.
Boston College led Duke 24-21 at the half and maintained the lead for much of the second half. Duke finally pulled away with a 20-8 run over the final eight minutes and once again it was Tre Jones who made the winning plays. Jones scored eight of Duke’s final 13 points and assisted on four more.
The Eagles jumped to a 12-2 lead as the ice-cold Devils missed 11-of-their first 12 field-goal attempts, while tossing in three turnovers for added spice.
It was 14-4 when Duke started clawing back into the game. Duke tightened up its D but never could find the range from downtown, missing all 12 of their first-half 3-point attempts.
But the Blue Devils were able to put points on the board when they got it inside to Vernon Carey. The freshman big scored nine of Duke’s woeful 21 first-half points, even giving Duke a short-lived 17-16 lead. BC surged for a 24-19 lead but Tre Jones closed the half with a layup.
That’s right. Twenty-one points in the first half.
And only down by three.
By contrast Duke led Boston College 45-19 at the half when they played on December 31, those 45 points equaling the combined first-half total of both teams Tuesday night.
Mike Krzyzewski had a nuanced explanation for Duke’s shooting woes.
“We missed six shots by the bucket in the first eight minutes. Even at the end, we missed right by the bucket. When we’re young, we try to shoot there, and when you’re by the bucket, you don’t try to shoot – you try to score. It’s a big difference. you’re trying to shoot, there’s the bucket, you might go here. You try to score, you’re going in here, so you’re either going to get the bucket, foul or both. Here, you’re not going to get a call because you haven’t worked for it. It’s not like we were getting fouled. We were shooting the ball, and what happens then is there’s a lot of stuff underneath body-wise and so if you’re just shooting it, you’re shooting at a moving target because you’re going to be hit, whereas if you’re trying to score, you’re right there. Anyway, it makes sense – I’ve been doing it for 45 years. There’s a big difference between shooting and scoring by the bucket. Winning teams score the ball, they don’t shoot the ball by the bucket, and we didn’t do that tonight until late Tre got a couple.”
In fairness, this wasn’t the same team Duke played five weeks ago, as demonstrated by their recent win at North Carolina. BC welcomed post player Nik Popovic back from injury. Popovic had a modest nine points and four rebounds but he gave the Eagles some quality size to throw against Duke inside.
But it took Duke some time to concede that improvement.
““They [Duke] have a lot of adversity with me because they didn’t listen to me, so they’re in trouble with me and that’s the main adversity that they have, because it’s stupid not to listen,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ve warned them for two days about it. I’ve watched their recent games – they’ve been playing great, not good. This guy’s (Jim Christian) a good coach, and these kids played their butts off and I thought they did that even better than what I’ve seen in the last three games. They took it up a notch. They were very good tonight. They were certainly deserving of winning – we were fortunate tonight.”
Former Duke point guard Derryck Thornton rolled in ankle when the teams met in Cameron and didn’t do much. For much of the rematch it looked like the storyline was going to be something along the lines of Derryck Thornton’s Revenge. He torched Duke and its supposedly elite perimeter defenders for 21 points.
The two teams traded baskets for the first 14 minutes of the second half, neither team leading by more than four points. Carey again had to sit a good portion of the second half with four fouls, not unusual for a freshman big man but something that Duke needs to clean up with March approaching.
Duke only hit one 3-pointer on the night but it was a big one. Trailing 47-43 Joey Baker knocked it down, sparking that decisive run. Carey hit a layup and then two free throws, putting Duke up for good, at 50-49.
And Duke’s defense showed up when it counted, holding Boston College without a field goal for almost five minutes, lots of pressure, even some zone, as the Blue Devils forced some big turnovers and pulled away, allowing the Duke faithful breathed a sign of relief.
“There was a lot going on tonight,” Krzyzewski summed up. “We feel very fortunate to have won. I think that one change (defensively) helped us and it turned out where we won. Whether we were completely deserving of winning or not, I thought in the second half, we at least put ourselves on the threshold of being deserving and we got it.”
The win was Mike Krzyzewski’s 500th ACC win, against 200 losses.
Jones with 18 points and Carey with 17 were Duke’s only double-figure scorers. Carey added 10 rebounds, Jones four assists.
Carey has 11 double-doubles on the season.
Duke ended the game shooting 23-for-61 (37.7 percent) from the field and 1-for-15 from beyond the arc. But again Duke was superb from the foul line, hitting 16-of-20.
Carey was 7-for-8 from the line, Jones 4-for-5, Cassius Stanley 3-for-3.
After not seeing the court against Syracuse last Saturday, Baker gave Duke a big lift off the bench with 8 points. But Stanley (7 points) and Matthew Hurt (2) struggled, while Jordan Goldwire, Jack White and Alex O’Connell were scoreless.
Thornton had 21 points for BC, Stefon Mitchell 12 rebounds, as Boston College edged Duke on the glass, 40-39.
Duke won this one of defense, forcing 17 turnovers—six by Thornton-and holding BC to equally bad shooting, 22-for-59 from the field, 2-for-18 on 3s.
That’s right. Duke and Boston College combined to shoot 3-for-33 on 3-pointers.
Still, Baker’s 3 extended Duke’s streak of at least one made 3-pointer to 1,081 games.
Duke has now won 13-of-its last 14 against BC.
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Player Of The Game vs. Boston College
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Alex O’ Connell