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Devastation Row: More On Duke’s Terrific Performance Against Winston-Salem State

Lots of promise, lots of potential for this team

Winston-Salem State v Duke
DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 30: AJ Griffin #21 of the Duke Blue Devils puts up a shot against Alexander Reed #24 of the Winston-Salem State Ram during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium on October 30, 2021 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

There was a point late in the first half of Duke’s exhibition game against Winston-Salem State Saturday when Paolo Banchero had 11 points, Jeremy Roach had 10 points, Trevor Keels had 10 points and Mark Williams had 10 points.

So what?

Well, at the time Winston-Salem State had 10 points. That’s right, it was 61-10 at the time.

And I’m not even sure that was the most jaw-dropping state of the first half. Duke had 17 assists against only two turnovers. WSSU had 12 turnovers and zero assists, That’s right no assists for the first half.

Of course, they only had four made field goals. Which was the same number of blocked shots Mark Williams had in the first half.

Deep reserve Bates Jones played so early that he was the first Blue Devil to have a pair of threes.

Oh, and A.J. Griffin played. Eighteen minutes worth of playing.

More on Griffin later.

If you’re insisting on a final score, it was 106-38. It was 63-13 at the half and Duke opened the second half with the second unit, because no one really wants to beat an opponent by 100 points.

The starters played about six minutes in the second half.

It’s hard to truly evaluate the Rams because they didn’t play at all last season. But Duke came out of the gates with energy, enthusiasm and an obvious joy in playing with each other and in front of fans, the first time in front of the Crazies against another opponent for almost everyone. No feeling out the opponent here.

It took Cleo Hill, Jr. all of 80 seconds before he called his first time out, his team already down 8-0. But it didn’t even slow down the Duke tsunami. Wendell Moore, Jr. scored off a steal and it was 11-2, then Jeremy Roach hit a a two and a three and it was 22-2.

Duke played shutdown defense but it was Duke’s willingness to and ability to share the ball that stood out. Duke ended the game with 26 assists on 38 made field goals and most of the ones that weren’t assisted came on offensive rebounds against an under-sized Rams team.

And Duke only had four turnovers, only one by a starter (Roach).

“They shared the ball well,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “There were a few exchanges that were just beautiful. If that becomes a characteristic of the team, then we have a chance to be real good.”

Krzyzewski says any of Roach, Keels, Moore, Banchero and Jaylen Blakes can initiate the offense.

The stats bear him out. Moore had 6 assists, Keels 4, Roach 7, Banchero 2 and Blakes 2. Even backup post Theo John had 3 passing out of double-teams.

“I don’t care if I have the ball in my hand or not,” Keels said. “If I’ve got the ball I do, if I don’t I don’t. When you’ve always got four guys on the court—sometimes five-that can run and get you into a set, it’s unbelievable. We don’t try to put a name on a position. We’re just basketball players.”

The 6-10, 250-pound Banchero is one of those guys who can initiate the offense. The precocious freshman from Seattle said that it has only been recently that he was the tallest player on the court and he always worked on all aspects of his game.

“I feel like people are always trying to put me in a box. I was never playing big. I was playing on the outside. As I got taller and got comfortable in my body, I was able to fully translate those skills. I’m really comfortable anywhere on the floor.”

Blakes said the team’s cohesiveness starts off the court.

“We love hanging together outside the court. That’s where it develops. We love to make the extra pass, we love to see each other do well. We like to score together not individually.”

Banchero led everyone with 21 points and nine rebounds and that’s in 20 minutes. He was joined in double figures by Williams (14 points), Keels (12), Jones (11), Roach (10) and Griffin (10). Co-captains Moore and Joey Baker each scored eight points.

Krzyzewski said about Griffin “when he got hurt three weeks ago, we thought it could be two months. He’s come back real quick. He’s just had a few practices and I think you could see the longer he played, the better he played.”

Keels credits Griffin’s toughness and determination for the quick return to action.

“A couple of weeks ago he messed up his knee and it was really emotional for the team and he’s just been working and working. He never let it set him back. Not a lot of people can be that mentally strong.”

Duke ended up out-rebounding the visitors 53-33, forced 19 turnovers, shot 53.5 percent from the field (67.6 in the first half). If you’re worrying about the 19 for 29 foul shooting, don’t be. Krzyzewski said Duke shot very well from the line in last weekend’s scrimmage against Villanova.

It’s November soon and tougher tests loom. But for what Duke hoped to accomplish, it’s hard not to feel pretty good after Saturday’s rout.