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Duke Wears Down App State 92-67

Give the Mountaineers props for playing hard and with passion though.

Appalachian State v Duke
 DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 16: Wendell Moore Jr. #0 of the Duke Blue Devils goes up for a dunk against the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 16, 2021 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

After Tuesday’s laugher against South Carolina State, Duke needed a better team to give them a sterner test.

They got that and more Thursday in a 92-67 win over Appalachian State. The final score suggests a comfortable win but the Cameron Crazies certainly were squirming when the Mountaineers cut a 13-point halftime Duke lead to five points at 53-48 just 2:40 into the second half.

The visitors did a lot of their damage from beyond the arc, making seven of their first 16 3-pointers. But Duke buckled down on defense, App State regressed to the mean and Duke’s superior talent allowed them to pull away down the stretch.

App State came into Cameron with a 6-5 record but with wins over such teams as William Peace University, Boyce and Erskine. But they’re a veteran team coming off a successful 2021 season and they certainly didn’t betray any nerves against the Devils.

“We had to force them to play well,” ASU coach Dustin Kerns said. “I thought we did some good stuff. I’m proud of our team for handling the electricity. But I think when Duke shoots the ball like that, that’s why they’re the number two team in the country.”

There were a number of story-lines early on. App State’s Mike Almoncacy scored 32 points for the Mountaineers against Georgia State in the 2021 Sun Belt Tournament. But he came into tonight’s game shooting 35 percent from the field and averaging 9.3 points per game.

It took him less than seven minutes to match that. Almoncacy had 17 of App State’s first 24 points in less than 11 minutes.

And the visitors were up 24-23.

“He looked like he was in the NBA for those first 11 minutes,” Krzyzewski said.

Duke’s starting unit came out sluggish. But Joey Baker, A.J. Griffin and Theo John came off the bench and stabilized Duke. In fact the trio scored 19 consecutive points for Duke, 8 for Griffin, 6 for John and 5 for Baker.

“Having Theo back helps,” Krzyzewski said. “Their big guys kind of dominated early with physicality. But Theo gave us that physicality. A.J. and Joey are really good players and we can sub more now. Joey has been a good player all year but I think he’s getting better, more athletic. A.J.’s trajectory is right here [makes going up motion]. But that stretch they were all fresh and they gave us a big boost, no doubt about it.”

Paolo Banchero broke that streak with a jumper that made it 34-31. Wendell Moore (3-pointer and dunk) and Mark Williams (dunk and block that led to Moore’s dunk) gave Duke it first real separation, a 7-0 run in 53 seconds that made it 41-33.

Mark Williams converted a tip right before the buzzer and Duke went into the locker room up 50-37.

If Duke had any notions of a blow-out they were quickly disabused of that. Trevor Keels fouled Justin Forrest on a 3-pointer with one second left on the shot clock.

App State didn’t shoot a single foul shot in the first half and Kerns says they needed to fix that.

“I just thought we put an emphasis on getting in there and attacking the rim. We were more aggressive.”

Forrest made all three of the freebies and went to the line 11 times in the second half.

Krzyzewski said “you can’t foul a 3-point shooter and he saw that ball go in. We fouled too much in the second half.”

Forrest scored nine of his 16 points after intermission.

Then the visitors scored twice off offensive rebounds and suddenly it was 53-48, timeout for Duke.

Kerns said they watched film of the South Carolina State game and thought they could get some offensive rebounds. They outrebounded Duke 31-30, with a 13-7 advantage on the offensive boards.

Krzyzewski said Duke is trying to leak out and start fast breaks before actually securing the defensive rebound.

Moore said the message at 53-48 was simple. “Just rebound. We weren’t defensively rebounding at all.”

That got cleaned up and Duke exploded offensively. In a spectacular sequence just after that timeout Griffin, Jeremy Roach and Moore hit bombs in a 56-second span and it was 64-50.

Yes, folks, Duke may have a 3-point shooting team. The Blue Devils ended with 15 made 3s out of 30 attempts, a winning percentage in any league.

And the Blue Devils shut down Almoncacy, who ended the game with those same 17 points he had in the middle of the first half.

“Credit Duke” Kerns said,” they really keyed on him the second half and shut him down.”

“He was getting open looks early,” Moore acknowledged. “We tightened up on him. Jeremy did a great job in the second half. He took pride in guarding him and shutting him down.”

Roach agreed.

“Just locking in on him. I think we were too lax, just letting him do whatever he wanted, giving him open looks. We wanted to wear him out. We made it my job to lock him up.”

Duke gradually pulled away. Kerns said “our guys just wore down.”

“Our offense is doing great,” Krzyzewski summed up. “We’re sharing the ball, making one-dribble penetration. We’ve made 15 3s in each of the last two games because we’ve had good shots.”

Duke shot 57 percent from the field and 85 percent from the line and turned it over only nine times, with 21 assists.

Moore had another great game. “He’s been our stud,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s doing that on offense but he’s also doing it on defense. Right now he’s having an All-American year. He’s played as well as anybody.”

Moore had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, while shooting 8 for 11 from the field and hitting all four of his 3-pointers.

Banchero (16), Keels (11), Griffin (11) and Roach (10) joined Moore in double figures, with Roach matching Moore’s six assists.

“We have good players and they’re really competitive guys” Krzyzewski summed up. “They’re not going to be afraid. We hit three 3s, boom, boom, boom. But we did it because we played great defense. When we play like that it’s neat. It’s really beautiful basketball. I give my guys freedom to do that but you’ve got to play defense first.”

Loyola of Maryland next, Saturday at 4 if the covid genie stays away.


Player Of The Game vs. Appalachian State

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Wendell Moore
    (278 votes)
  • 0%
    Paolo Banchero
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Mark Williams
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Jeremy Roach
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor Keels
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Keenan Worthington
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    AJ Griffin
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Joey Baker
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Theo John
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Bates Jones
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaylen Blakes
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Michael Savarino
    (3 votes)
314 votes total Vote Now