It turns out Neil Young was right. Rust really doesn’t sleep.
Playing its first game in over three weeks Duke dug itself into a 16-point hole against Boston College Wednesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium and then dug themselves out. The Blue Devils never put away the Eagles but they made enough plays down the stretch to hold on for an 83-82 win.
There were a lot of sidebars. Duke played without injured freshman forward Jalen Johnson (foot) and grad-student center Patrick Tapé, while head coach Mike Krzyzewski was at home, in COVID-19 protocol. Associate head coach Jon Scheyer filled in. But the biggest sidebar might have been the return-to-form of formerly-struggling forward Wendell Moore, Jr. Moore came into the contest averaging fewer than four points per game but hit big shot after big shot Wednesday night, leading everyone with 25 points, each basket seemingly bigger than the one before.
Because Duke needed every one of them. Boston College came in with a 2-7 record but they’ve played three games since Duke defeated Notre Dame on December 16 and they are an ACC team.
What went wrong early? Steward said Duke was “nervous.”
Scheyer said “I’m not sure what it was . . . . none of it really worked in the first half. We had to figure a way. . . .We were walking in mud a little bit. They were quicker to the ball. They were hungrier. We had to change that.”
Moore suggested that the young Blue Devils are still learning what it takes at this level, a process held back by all the pandemic-related cancellations.
“Every game in the ACC is never going to be easy, no matter who we play. Tonight they learned that we have to come and fight every day. Nothing is going to be given to us. Nothing is going to be easy because everybody wants to beat Duke. We have to come out and compete for 40 minutes.”
Duke held its own early. It was tied 9-9 before BC went on a 6-0 run, then an 11-0 run, then a 12-6 run and Duke trailed 41-25, with 2:14 left in the half.
Freshman D.J. Steward fueled the comeback, grabbing three rebounds, blocking a shot, assisting Moore and hitting a 3 right before the buzzer to send Duke into the locker room down, 43-35, that 16-point lead cut in half in two minutes.
“We just came together,” Steward said. “We knew we had to get stops. Stops lead to buckets. We knew we had to cut into the lead to have a chance to win the game.”
What did Scheyer tell the team at half-time?
“One, we can win this game and we are going to win this game. Two, playing harder, as simple as it sounds. . . The majority of what we talked about was fighting, getting stops and we can go from there.”
“Our energy got better and our leaders led us,” Steward added.
Jeremy Roach scored Duke’s first six points in the second half, then Moore hit two foul shots, then Matt Hurt tied the game at 46 on a 3. Moore made two foul shots and Duke led 50-48, their first lead since 2-0.
But any members of the Duke faithful expecting the Blue Devils to pull away were disappointed. BC hung in there. Over the final 18 minutes neither team led by more than three points.
Hurt gave Duke a 78-75 lead with a 3, Moore beat the shot clock with a jumper to make it 80-77 and Jordan Goldwire - two foul shots - and Moore - one-of-two - closed out the scoring for Duke from the line, rendering a late BC 3-pointer one point too shy.
Hurt (17 points, 11 rebounds), Steward (14 points, eight rebounds), Roach (12 points, five assists) and Goldwire (12 points, six assists) all made key contributions. Duke had 14 steals.
But Moore was the key.
“I was happy to see it [first shot] go through. Took everything that on my shoulders off of me, gave me a chance to play free.”
“He’s worked his butt off,” Scheyer said of Moore. “He’s been able to block out the noise and keep working. He’s always been at his best when he’s playing defense. He’s talking, he’s leading. At the start of the game he did that and then his offense came along. He saved us.”
Moore scored those 25 points on 13 field-goal attempts (eight makes, 2-of-3 on 3s), 7-of-8 from the line and perhaps best of all, no turnovers, a Wendell Moore playing with a confidence and a verve and an efficiency that Duke needs to maximize its potential.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of poise.” Scheyer summed up. “It’s not easy being off for three weeks. . . . We need to build on it.”
Mark Williams got the start but played only six minutes. Moore played 30 off the bench.
Scheyer said that Johnson would be evaluated in a few days and suggested that his return will be sooner rather than later.
C.J. Felder let BC with 24 points. The Eagles turned it over 21 times but hit 57 percent from the field.
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- Duke’s Jon Scheyer, temporarily replacing Coach K, talks about stepping into the head coaching shoes
- Wendell Moore reverses slump as Duke holds on against Boston College
- Moore’s 25 Points Lift No. 21 Duke Over BC, 83-82
- BOX SCORE (PDF)
- POSTGAME NOTES (PDF)
- DUKE COACH QUOTES (PDF)
- DUKE PLAYER QUOTES (PDF)
Player Of The Game vs. Boston College
This poll is closed