Duke Basketball
Freshman guard Trevor Keels (1) soars for a dunk in Duke’s 87-56 win over Elon on Saturday. Coach K’s final non-conference game for Duke Basketball ends with smiling faces, as the Blue Devils handily defeated the Phoenix. (Photo by Robert Willett/News & Observer/RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 11 vs Elon

Dec. 18, 2021: Mike Krzyzewski’s final non-conference game for Duke Basketball. It was a game that was very close to being canceled, with the Blue Devils having to reschedule the game not once, but twice, following positive COVID results from Cleveland State and Loyola (Md.). Eventually, the Duke Athletics department found an opponent right down the road in the Elon Phoenix. And yes, while Coach K’s non-conference game is not that momentous in the grand scheme of this season, let alone his career, it is a milestone, nonetheless. So, it’s a good thing Duke beat Elon, and did it quite handily, winning 87-56.

The Blue Devils jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it. In the final tune-up before ACC play begins, Duke handled a battle-tested Elon side – the Phoenix fell earlier in the season to Florida, West Virginia and North Carolina. Coach K’s final team delivered a complete performance on both ends of the floor, outscoring the Phoenix 46-22 in the paint, while also forcing 23 turnovers. It was a no-struggle kind of game for the Blue Devils, so (as always) let’s get into some takeaways.

Baby steps: Duke was not outrebounded

I didn’t think that rebounding would be a problem for a Duke team featuring a frontcourt of 7-foot Mark Williams, 6-10 Paolo Banchero and 6-9 Theo John, but here we are. The Blue Devils were outrebounded by 24 across the three games against Kentucky, Gonzaga and Ohio State. They gave up 21 offensive boards to South Carolina State and 13 to Appalachian State. Alas, the Elon frontcourt was no match – Alex writes sarcastically. The Blue Devils won the battle on the boards by eight. In a perfect world, I would like to see Duke improve in this regard, but I’m sure Coach K is privy to the situation because there’s a reason I’m typing these recaps and not on the sidelines.

Starters equally efficient as Trevor Keels shines

Duke’s starting five of Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels, Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams combined for 62 points on 23-for-39 shooting, including 5-for-12 from 3-point range. Keels was the star of the night, though. The freshman had a game-high 19 points, with 15 of those coming in the first half. Offensively, the 6-5 guard got downhill and frequently finished through the chest of his Phoenix opponents. On the defensive side of the ball, Keels was frustrating Elon guards at a halfcourt, jumping passing lanes and getting easy buckets in transition. After another great performance, the three-headed monster of Moore, Banchero and Keels is showing that Duke doesn’t need to rely on one star to get it done.

It may be hard to believe, but that’s all I’ve got. Krzyzewski has this Duke team shooting with confidence and playing really good defense. It’s a total reversal of last season’s fortunes and with their first conference game looming – Virginia Tech on Wednesday – Coach K (and I) are hoping this team continues this momentum into the rest of December and the new year.

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