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2022 NCAA Tournament Win Over Cal State Fullerton Encouraging For Duke, Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Now if they can just fix the damn floor...

Cal State Fullerton v Duke
GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 18: Mark Williams #15 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket against Vincent Lee #13 of the Cal State Fullerton Titans during the second half in the first round game of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 18, 2022 in Greenville, South Carolina.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Duke defeated Cal State-Fullerton 78-61 Friday night to advance to Sunday’s round of 32.

It wasn’t the kind of 40-minute beat-down we’ve sometimes seen from Duke in NCAA openers. But the outcome was never seriously in doubt and it was a pretty good introduction to the Big Dance for a bunch of youngsters who were making their NCAA Tournament debuts.

“I would describe it as amazing,” Wendell Moore, Jr. said. “This is for sure a special moment.”

Paolo Banchero agreed.

”It definitely felt good, just actually playing, being out there. Just a surreal experience.”

It’s been six days since Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech in ACC Tournament title game and words like “reset”, “renewed hunger” and “re-calibrate” were used in the post-game. Mike Krzyzewski was asked if he thought his team had found its missing mojo and he answered in the affirmative.

Krzyzewski also said his team was nervous

It sure didn’t look like that early. Duke started Jeremy Roach instead of Trevor Keels and Roach validated that decision right away.

Roach hit a layup and assisted Paolo Banchero on a 3 as Duke jumped ahead 10-2. Then Mark

Williams assisted Moore on another triple and it was 13-2.

Williams had a career-high five assists,

“Just wanted to make the right play,” Williams said, crediting his teammates for getting open and knocking down the shot.

It looked like the rout might be on when Roach hit another 3-pointer to put Duke up 31-17, with 6:28 left in the half.

But a couple of turnovers, a couple of Duke misses, some CSFU layups and it was 31-25.

But Duke stabilized. Williams and Banchero scored inside and Duke took a 37-27 lead into the locker room.

The Titans scored first in the second half to cut the Duke lead to eight.

Any thoughts of a comeback were short-lived. A.J. Griffin made a 3, Jeremy Roach made three foul shots after being fouled on a 3, then Griffin hit another triple for 49-33, then Banchero got an old-fashioned three-point play and it was 52-33.

Duke’s lead never dropped below 13 after that.

The Blue Devils put all five starters in double figures. Banchero was outstanding with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 2 blocks. He also helped hold CSFU star E.J. Anosike to 10 points.

Williams had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks, Moore 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, Roach 12 points and 5 assists and Griffin 10 points.

Duke out-rebounded CSFU 38-30, made all 9 of their foul shots and assisted on 21 of their 30 made field goals.

But the nerves showed up on 13 turnovers.

Krzyzewski said the emphasis in practice this week was on improving defensive communication.

“It was a lot better. And the effort—we played hard. They played really hard.It’s a big improvement. We’ve been a really good defensive team but the last four games we’ve been a really bad defensive team.”

There was one disturbing sidebar. There was a lot of slipping and sliding on the slippery floor and Krzyzewski said Moore had a sore hip from several hard falls and would need monitoring. How an NCAA Tournament game could be played in these conditions is a question that will have to be addressed ASAP.

Moore did appear in the post-game media conference, so hopefully that’s a good sign for Sunday. He said he thought better things were waiting for his team.

“I think this was for sure a step in the right direction. We’ve got some work to do on defense starting with our defensive rebounding. For the most part I thought our offense was good. We got some good shots. But we also took some bad shots. There’s always something we can clean up.”