Duke Basketball
Wendell Moore Jr. recorded a triple-double – the third in the Coach K era of Duke basketball – and the Blue Devils handled Army 82-56. (Photo by AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 2 vs Army

Wendell Moore Jr. have yourself a night. The junior co-captain recorded the third-ever triple-double in the Coach K era of Duke basketball, with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

I’ve been on the Wendell Moore hype train since his days at Cox Mill High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ve talked ad nauseum to friends and family members alike about how much an improved Moore would/will help this Duke squad. As sweet as I’m sure this moment is for Moore, it’s equally sweet for me knowing that – through two games – I’ve been right.

As for the game itself, it was your prototypical 40-minute battle coming off of a hard-fought Champions Classic win. The Blue Devils maintained a semi-comfortable lead throughout much of the game, but Army was able to cut it to single digits at multiple points.

The No. 9 team in the land conveniently connected on the same number of threes as their ranking. They did attempt 29 shots from distance though, so again I’m left cautiously optimistic. Keels – dubbed as the best shooter in the squad – was 1-6 from deep on the night, which makes him 2-10 from three in a Duke jersey. It’s early, but it’s not the production you like to see.

Questions remain surrounding the Mark Williams-Paolo Banchero dynamic on the interior. Both players are crucial to this team, but the Blue Devils have had more success playing small ball than with both on the floor. It’s a log jam in the paint, and while I’m sure their chemistry gets better as the season wears along, one has to wonder whether Krzyzewski begins to roll with small ball line-ups in close games. It’s worth it to note that Coach K could draw up and run some actual offensive sets, outside of their horns set or individual playmaking, but it’s 2020s Duke basketball so it probably won’t happen.

Now back to Moore. The 20-year-old’s aforementioned triple-double carried the team on Friday night. His length on both ends of the floor will make him invaluable for Krzyzewski throughout the season. He can guard 1-4 and after this performance, will likely assume lead point guard responsibilities for this Duke basketball squad. The most impressive statistic on the night, however, wasn’t his point, rebound or assist tally; it was his single turnover in 35 minutes of action. Knowing the inconsistent offensive efforts Moore had last season, his progress in that department this year is impressive.

Coach K has seen that progress first-hand and isn’t surprised by Moore’s Swiss army knife ability for this squad.

“From day one this year, he’s been really good … He’s our leader. He will do anything we need to have done.”

VIA Duke MBB/Instagram

And now to the rest of the squad. Banchero recorded a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. It will be overlooked, but the Seattle, Washington native is doing exactly what is expected of him. Those 18 points, by the way, was on 7-9 shooting.

Although Keels struggled offensively, his team-high six steals leap off the page. He still had 10 points, but his defensive impact, especially alongside the likes of Moore, Williams and Banchero, makes Duke a dangerous team on that side of the ball. Jeremy Roach added 14 points too.

In a game where the offense struggled, the team’s defense picked up the slack. The Blue Devils only allowed five offensive rebounds, recorded 14 steals and held Army to 5-22 from distance. Compare that to Tuesday’s game against Kentucky and you’re incredibly pleased, as the Wildcats snagged 19 offensive rebounds and shot 7-18 from three.

It was a game where the Blue Devils showed they could put the hammer down against a lesser opponent when needed. They will need to do the same thing on Saturday in a quick turnaround as they face one of the best teams in the Big South: Campbell.

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