No. 1 Blue Devils putting the ‘D’ in Duke
Top-ranked Duke added some elements of toughness during the past week by winning a couple of games in New York.
The Blue Devils are back home to put their grit on display Tuesday night against Stephen F. Austin at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke (6-0) has won half of its games this season at Madison Square Garden, where the Blue Devils recently won two tournament games.
“We felt starting practice that we could be good defensively with Tre (Jones) there and depth,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’ve really devoted most of our practice time to defense. As a result, I think we’ve gotten tougher.”
The Blue Devils returned from New York with two more victories, drilling previously undefeated California and then overcoming Georgetown with a strong second half.
By winning the 2K Empire Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, Duke has won 20 in-season tournaments under Krzyzewski.
Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while classmates Cassius Stanley and Wendell Moore Jr. were named to the all-tournament team.
“Concentrating on defense and giving Wendell and Cassius a little more confidence, that leads to better offense,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to continue to try to find out about ourselves, and you find out when you play games like this.”
Carey scored a total of 51 points across the two games.
“We’re finding ourselves offensively,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m still learning about Vernon. I knew he’d be good, but he’s really good.”
Carey, who averages a team-best 18.3 points per game, said being aggressive in the lane is the priority at both ends of the court.
“Just preparation really,” Carey said. “We practice with our rebounding drills and attacking the glass a lot more. Just focusing on that aspect.”
The scoring is starting to spread out. Moore posted a season-high 17 points in the Georgetown game.
Duke, which also has a home game Friday night against Winthrop, is 6-0 for the 14th time since the 2000-01 season.
Stephen F. Austin (4-1) was unbeaten until losing last Wednesday at Rutgers. That’s the lone road game so far for the Lumberjacks.
“Our staff feels as though we have really challenged our young team this year with an outstanding schedule that gives our Lumberjacks many opportunities for growth as we prepare for Southland Conference play,” coach Kyle Keller said.
The Lumberjacks will begin league play prior to Christmas, so an outing like this one during Thanksgiving week is crucial to the team’s development.
“Because of that we really tried to maximize what we could do to help our team’s learning curve through the first six weeks of the season,” Keller said.
Senior guard Kevon Harris leads Stephen F. Austin in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He won the first Southland Conference Player of the Week honor this season.
This will be the first meeting between the Lumberjacks and Blue Devils.
Stephen F. Austin has already played one team from Durham this season, defeating visiting North Carolina Central on Nov. 9.
–Field Level Media