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Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 10 vs App. State

Duke Basketball

Duke Basketball
Duke senior Joey Baker dives for a loose ball against Appalachian State’s R.J. Duhart in the Blue Devils’ 92-67 win over the Mountaineers. After another encouraging offensive display, Duke Basketball (9-1) looks ready for ACC play. (Photo by Robert Willett/The News & Observer/[email protected])

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 10 vs App. State

Just 48 hours removed from their drubbing of South Carolina State, Duke Basketball pulled away in the second half to beat Appalachian State 92-67 in the second of a three-game, five-day homestand.

The Blue Devils’ bout with the Mountaineers was tight throughout the opening 16 minutes, with both teams trading buckets. Despite the potential NBA talent in Duke’s starting five, it was the bench, specifically Joey Baker, A.J. Griffin and Theo John, who kept the squad in the game for much of the first half. From the 13:54 mark of the half to the 5:52 mark, the trio were the only Blue Devils to score, combining for 19 points.

In the second half, however, it was the stars – Wendell Moore Jr. and Paolo Banchero – who helped Duke add another tally to the win column. Moore had another great all-around effort, tallying 21 points, six assists and five rebounds, all the while guarding App. State star Adrian Delph – who was held to 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting. Banchero, although hampered with some late foul trouble, had 16 points and six rebounds.

All in all, it was another impressive offensive display from the Dukies. And with ACC play just around the corner, the 9-1 Blue Devils will look to Loyola (Md.) – not Cleveland State, thanks COVID – on Saturday as a final tune-up before Duke plays host to Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Before we look ahead though, let’s dive into some takeaways from the game against Appalachian State.

Wendell Moore is not contending just for ACC individual honors, but national ones too

Listen, I know Duke has only played 10 real basketball games to date, but part of having a platform in sports media – however big or small – is being endowed with the ability to be incredibly reactionary early in the season. That is why I think it’s not too much of a reach to proclaim that Moore should be in consideration for All-American honors. Sure, many would have laughed if I had said that a year ago – I even would have chuckled at the thought, despite myself being one of Moore’s biggest supporters. But you can’t argue with numbers, and the junior co-captain is averaging 17.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game for the No. 2 team in the land. He has been Duke’s most impressive player this season, simple as that.

You know else agrees with me? None other than the GOAT himself: one Mike Krzyzewski.

“He’s been our stud. He’s doing that on offense and he’s also doing it on defense. He’s having, right now, an All-American year. He’s played great, he’s been such a good player and leader.”

VIA Duke Athletics/goduke.com

So, are Coach K and I a little biased? Sure, but you can’t say we are wrong, because if Duke Basketball continues to trend upwards, then that is likely due to the efforts of Moore and company – and success warrants hardware on both the individual and team fronts.

Is Duke blossoming into an actual 3-point shooting threat?

The Blue Devils shot 15-for-30 from beyond the arc against the Mountaineers. That performance follows up their 15-for-27 3-point shooting night against South Carolina State. The Blue Devils did struggle early in the season to knock down 3s – look no further than the Kentucky game – but now they seem to be clicking on all three levels offensively.

After the second-half stagnancy which led to the Ohio State loss, Krzyzewski said, in the two weeks that followed, the team worked on finding open shooters off of dribble penetrations. That practice has been realized, with the Blue Devils now shooting 38 percent from 3-point range this season. I feel I need to caution myself a little here since Duke teams have struggled from distance in recent memory, yet it just feels like this team’s shooting and holistic playmaking is trending upwards – and you can’t help but feel positive about that.

The Blue Devil bench continue to provide important minutes

The Achilles’ heel for the last decade of Duke teams has been the aforementioned shooting from distance, as well as a struggle for consistent contribution from the bench. Where just a month ago Duke was potentially staring this in the face, the emergence of Baker and Griffin – plus John when fully healthy – is extremely encouraging.

The trio of Blue Devils combined for 25 points against the Mountaineers, with Griffin (11 points) being the only one who played more than 14 minutes. Griffin, a former five-star recruit, has been battling injuries, but when 100 percent fit, he has been billed as a potential lottery pick. A confident Baker provides Duke with an outside threat to space the floor and John is the hardworking frontcourt sparkplug every coach wishes they had coming off the bench.

If the team’s most recent games are any indication, Duke Basketball now has eight players who can all contribute important minutes – and that, for Coach K, is invaluable.

***

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