Let’s look at some things that did not go well against Miami: Ryan Young got just two shots. Jaylen Blakes, his nose freshly broken in practice this week, played for just five minutes to minimal effect. Mark Mitchell shot just 1-4 and at times seemed frustrated. Jacob Grandison shot just 2-7.
Duke also shot just 9-15 from the line and didn't show poise at all times down the stretch. Like we saw at Clemson, the Blue Devils also had trouble scoring in the last five minutes.
And still won over a tough, experienced team.
Look, there is no way to gain experience other than playing and Duke has a lot of freshmen. That equals a lot of mistakes.
Consider this though.
Against Pitt, Duke held Blake Hinson to 3-8 and Greg Elliott to 2-6.
Against Clemson, the Blue Devils put a blanket on Hunter Tyson, who finished with seven points and, we think, none in the first half.
Against Miami, Isaiah Wong shot just 2-8 and had just seven points. But it doesn’t stop there.
Norchad Omier was just 3-9. Wooga Poplar? Held to 1-3.
Only Nijel Pack and Jordan Miller really did reasonably well, with Pack hitting 6-15 and Miller a shade better at 7-13.
Look at this too: against NC State, Duke had a disastrous 21 turnovers. Against BC, 15. Against Pitt 13, against Clemson, that fell to 11 and against Miami, just 10.
That’s definite progress and it was important. Miami loves to pick and run and they’re good at it. Duke couldn’t have survived a heavy turnover game.
This is too: in his last three games, Kyle Filipowski had 13 turnovers. Against Miami?
We were concerned about Duke’s lack of offense down the stretch and there will be games where that could be crushing.
But playing without Jeremy Roach for four games forced the Blue Devils, in a sense, to grow up. And different guys have stepped up at different times.
Dariq Whitehead has improved to the point where he is a regular starter. He still has work to do - he’s offensively erratic - but he’s also had some dazzling plays, including his shot-clock beating very long three pointer from nearly half-court Saturday.
Banked it in, too.
He’s finding his way.
And, more and more, so is Dereck Lively.
There aren’t many guys who can defend inside like Lively can, and very few who can do that and run like he can.
We’ve seen little hints. We think it was at Clemson when he turned in the lane and put up a jump hook. It missed, but he was aggressive and no one was going to block that. He was way up.
Then against Miami, Lively was a wrecking machine.
He had 10 rebounds, including six offensive. He took nine shots. He only hit three of those, but he was willing to take them, which is huge. And he had five blocks.
And all of this in 18 minutes.
It’s hard to say how many shots he altered, but you could tell Norchad Omier was very aware of the long arm of the law looming above.
When you have a guy like that in the back of your defense, you can gamble a lot more.
Closing out games is still a concern and will be Monday at Virginia Tech as well. And make no mistake - the Hokies really need a win. They haven’t won since December 17th. That’s seven straight. Keep in mind though that the loss to BC went to overtime, the loss to Wake Forest was by two points, the loss to NC State was by four, and the loss to Clemson was by one.
It’s not like they’re falling apart. They’re just coming up a little short.
Duke is going to have to be really good in the last few minutes. The Hokies are just too well coached and too good offensively to shut them out for long periods.