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Duke Blows By Elon

The Phoenix came to play but Duke just had more.

NCAA Basketball: Elon at Duke
 Dec 18, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA;Duke Blue Devils forward AJ Griffin (21) reacts after blocking a shot during the first half against the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Third times the charm, I suppose.

After COVID canceled games with Cleveland State and then Loyola of Maryland, Duke was able to find a healthy opponent for Saturday’s last-game-before-ACC-play tuneup.

Elon’s coach Mike Schrage spent five years at Duke, mostly as director of basketball operations. He said he didn’t hesitate when Duke contacted him about filling the void.

“I wouldn’t pass this up. This was something we couldn’t say no to.”

“Thank god that we had a game,” Mike Krzyzewski added. “A lot of things had to happen for this game to occur and we appreciate it.”

Krzyzewski made no attempt to run from the implications of the rash of cancellations dominating the sports scene and made no attempt to hide his concern.

“It’s kind of just exploded on us [but] we tested twice today.”

Krzyzewski added that the sport should be doing more testing and he was pretty emphatic about it.

“I would like to know if the other team was tested just before we play.”

He also added that all of his players are vaccinated but they aren’t scheduled to get boosters until January.

And he’s not a fan of the forfeit rule.

Back to the game. Elon didn’t have far to travel, 25 miles or so. But in the basketball sense they have a long way to go to match Duke’s talent and the outcome of Duke’s 87-56 win was never in doubt.

Duke never trailed and it was never tied after Mark Williams opened the scoring with a dunk 20 seconds into the game. Duke led 11-4 at the first media timeout, 23-9 at the second, 29-11 at the third, 36-17 at the fourth, 44-26 at the half, the kind of methodical grinding down of an outmatched opponent by a focused team determined to not take any prisoners.

The talent imbalance was obvious from the beginning. Doesn’t mean Duke didn’t have some things to work on.

The most important was defensive rebounding. After Appalachian State grabbed 13 offensive rebounds against Duke Thursday night, Duke needed to clean that up.

Consider it cleaned up. Elon grabbed two offensive rebounds in the first half, five for the game, with only four second-chance points. Duke won the battle of the boards 39-31 and had 16 second-chance points.

“They’re not as tall,” Krzyzewski acknowledged. “They haven’t been statistically a good rebounding team. We did rebound better but we didn’t rebound better against an outstanding rebounding team.”

A.J. Griffin had another solid game off the bench, 5 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.

He said that Duke did prioritize controlling the glass.

“Coach just emphasized that we need to rebound, box out and stay with our man. He helped us lock in and think about how to get the rebound; hit the man first and go for it.”

The other thing that needed cleaning up was, well, nothing actually. Duke shot well, passed well-18 assists against eight turnovers, only two turnovers in the first 20 minutes, just as they did in the two wins earlier this week.

But mainly Duke defended, 14 steals and six blocked shots worth of defending. Elon had 23 turnovers.

Schrage has seen some pretty good Duke defenses over the years and he was impressed.

“It just reminds me of the better Duke teams that I was a small part of where the point-of-attack defense, it starts there, having Chris Duhon and Jason Williams. Trevor Keels, they have really physical guys and you can tell the pride they’re putting in the defensive end, which the best Duke teams have done at such an amazing level for a long time.”

Krzyzewski said this team isn’t up to that level but it’s trending in that direction.

“Not at that level but with that potential. Let’s see if we can do it against [the] ACC. We’ve done it against non-conference but we should be a very good defensive team.”

Keels was a key player on both ends of the ball. He led everyone with 19 points, hitting 8 of 13 from the field and posting three steals.

About that defense.

“That’s something we take pride in, me, Jeremy and Wendell. Just getting after every guard. If you defend like that not many teams want to run offense. It gets my offense going. It gets me going when I sit down on defense.”

About that offense. Keels hit only 1 of 4 from beyond the arc but he was 7 of 9 from inside, using his strength and aggression to attack the basket and finish.

“Just getting into the gym a lot and not worrying about my shot too much, just making my teammates better, getting in the lane, drive kicks. That’s what I did today. I just got into the lane and got easy layups.”

Krzyzewski emptied the bench down the stretch. Ten players played at least 9:47, and no one played more than Jeremy Roach’s 27:34.

So, there wasn’t any stat-padding. Keels was joined in double figures by Paolo Banchero and Wendell Moore with 12 points and Roach with 11. Banchero had nine rebounds, Moore had five assists, Williams had three blocks and walk-on Spencer Hubbard got his first career point.

And yes, Duke is 10-1 keeping alive a streak of double-digit-winning seasons that dates back to 1929.

And yes, that used to be a thing.

That’s the end of the pre-ACC portion of the schedule. Duke hosts Virginia Tech Wednesday night. Krzyzewski says the Hokies are “a veteran team. They play together, they’re older, they’re very good.”

Griffin says he’s pumped for his first ACC game.

“I can’t wait. First ACC game I’ll ever play. You’ve got veterans on the team who know what it’s like. I’ve been hearing all the noise about ACC play. I’m ready.”

In normal times that would be the send-off. ACC play starts next week. Headline news.

But normal left the station in February of 2020 and hasn’t found its way home. Much of Mike Krzyzewski’s post-game seemed to have the figurative fingers crossed vibe.

And his closing words were “can you push that thing about testing? We’re making a big mistake in not doing it.”

There are ominous trends and the man does not have a do-over. He wants to get it right.

Are the right people listening?

Poll

Player Of The Game vs. Elon

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Wendell Moore
    (47 votes)
  • 3%
    Paolo Banchero
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    Mark Williams
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Jeremy Roach
    (15 votes)
  • 64%
    Trevor Keels
    (245 votes)
  • 0%
    Keenan Worthington
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    AJ Griffin
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Theo John
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Bates Jones
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Spencer Hubbard
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaylen Blakes
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Michael Savarino
    (10 votes)
380 votes total Vote Now