The term “road warriors” can be a bit overused.
But I think we can agree that Duke’s basketball has earned that designation.
Six games in 15 days, five in 13, road trips to Louisville, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Clemson and Boston College in that span, curiously wins in all five road games and a loss at home.
That includes Saturday’s 72-61 win over Boston College, a win that runs Duke’s record to 11-3 in the ACC, 21-4 overall.
Expressions like “methodical,” “workmanlike,” and “business-like” come to mind and that’s pretty good for a team that followed Thursday night’s game at Clemson with a flight that saw them hit Beantown around 3 A.M. Friday.
Duke fell behind 4-0 and 6-2 but took an 8-6 lead and extended it for most of the game, with the exception of a spirited 8-0 BC run in the second half that cut Duke’s lead from 51-36 to 51-44. But the Blue Devils pushed the lead back over 20 before the deep reserves gave some of it back in the final two minutes.
Duke out-shot BC, out-rebounded them and held them to a single 3-pointer in 12 attempts. The Blue Devils put five players in double figures, Paolo Banchero (16), Wendell Moore, Jr. (14), Trevor Keels (13), A.J. Griffin (10) and Mark Williams (10). Banchero added 14 rebounds, giving him eight double-doubles on the season.
It wasn’t perfect by any means. Duke again lost the turnover battle (13-9) and somehow managed to accumulate only eight assists on 26 made field goals; BC had 12 assists on 25 made field goals.
BC hung tough early largely on the efforts of center James Karnik, who scored 12 points in the first 13 minutes, at which point Duke led 22-20.
“He was owning this game until our big guys started responding” Mike Krzyzewski said of Karnik’s early explosion.
But A.J. Griffin scored seven points in less than five minutes and Banchero found Williams for a dunk shortly before the buzzer.
Duke took a 37-28 lead into the locker room, with Banchero and Griffin each totaling 10 points.
And Moore was fine, a little sore to be sure but showing no lasting ill effects after being on the receiving end of that gruesome foul Thursday night.
“I’m doing well,” Moore said after the game. “A couple bumps and bruises. I’ve been in treatment around the clock the past two days. Whether it was a dirty play, a hard play-I’m not going to comment on that. I don’t hold any grudges against him. He did what he had to do, he came over and apologized. We left it at that.”
Moore hit four of five from beyond the arc, accounting for all but two of his points.
“I feel like my shot preparation was there tonight. I feel like my hands were ready. Whenever one of my teammates drove today, I was calling for the ball. Most of all, I wasn’t thinking – I just shot it. Every time I shot it, I believed it was going in. With the confidence my teammates have in me, pair those two things together, it makes a pretty good night for me.”
The Eagles did make that one run in the second half when Duke got stuck on 51 for over three minutes. But when Duke responded, they responded as a team, Banchero inside, Moore with a triple, Keels with a tip, Banchero inside again, Jeremy Roach with two foul shots and Duke again regained control.
Karnik led everyone with 21 points, as Boston College falls to 9-14 and 4-9.
So the road warriors come home and Mike Krzyzewski said he likes what his team has done against hostile crowds.
“Our guys love a capacity crowd, whether it’s in Cameron or anywhere. They love that. They are never nervous or scared – ever. When we’re not playing well, it’s not because of nervous or scared. It’s because the other team is playing better. But they love it. Whether it be in Madison Square Garden against Kentucky, or breaking an attendance record against Gonzaga, going to the Smith Center or whatever. We’re 6-1 in the conference on the road. So, they like it.”
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