Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 25 vs Boston College
A gritty Boston College squad gave Duke Basketball all it could handle for much of Saturday’s game, before the Blue Devils pulled away in the second half. Behind freshman Paolo Banchero and junior Wendell Moore Jr., Duke avoided another upset and capped off a four-game, eight-day trip with a victory. After a dominating and physical win against Clemson on Thursday, the 48-hour turnaround appeared to have some effect on Coach K’s side.
The Blue Devils and Eagles exchanged blows for much of the opening 20 minutes. Whether it was a quick four or six-point spurt from Duke, Boston College would counter with its own set of body blows, often from center James Karnik. The senior had 12 of the Eagles’ opening 20 points, with the home squad within striking distance at the under-eight timeout. The Blue Devil frontcourt of Banchero, sophomore Mark Williams and freshman A.J. Griffin carried the team to the intermission with a 9-4 run, leading 37-28.
Duke jumped out of the gates in the second half, however, opening up a 51-36 lead before the Eagles once again clawed back following a Williams flagrant foul. But a spurt from Duke’s backcourt of Moore, Trevor Keels and Jeremy Roach reclaimed the lead, increasing it to 21 points with 4:38 remaining. Boston College remained resilient, cutting the advantage to 11 before Krzyzewski had to return the starters to the game to close it out. There were some hiccups, but it was another semi-commanding display from a Blue Devils side that just needed a win.
“It’s been a hell of an eight days – four games in eight days, three on the road,” Krzyzewski said. “We got here at 3:30 in the morning on Friday and you’re playing at 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon. Overall, my guys have done a really good job. I’m proud of them.”VIA Duke Athletics/goduke.com
Blue Devils powered by balanced scoring output
In what is becoming a fairly consistent theme, Duke Basketball once again delivered a balanced scoring effort. The ACC’s highest scoring offense produced a modest pair of halves of 37 and 35 points, with five players hitting double digits in scoring.
Banchero led the way with 16 points and 14 rebounds, his second-straight double-double. Moore added 14 points, while shooting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“I feel like my shot preparation was there tonight,” Moore said of his shooting performance. “I feel like my hands were ready. Whenever one of my teammates drove today, I was calling for the ball. Most of all, I wasn’t thinking – I just shot it. Every time I shot it, I believed it was going in. Really, one went well for me, and with the confidence my teammates have in me, pair those two thingstogether, it makes a pretty good night for me.”Duke Athletics/goduke.com
Keels dropped a solid 13, with Williams and Griffin each tallying 10 points. The Blue Devils have time and time again proved that they don’t need to go to one guy to win basketball games. Sure, they are likely more individually talented than every other team in the ACC, but balanced efforts on nights where they face an inferior opponent is critical, especially when you play 3-4 games in such a tight window.
Blue Devils short bench could prove troublesome
It’s no shock that, even in Coach K’s final year at the helm of Duke Basketball, the 75-year-old is rolling with a short bench. The 7-man rotation of Banchero, Moore, Williams, Keels, Griffin, Roach and center Theo John are going to be the group that will carry this team for the rest of the way. It’s not a new realization, but when Krzyzewski goes to reserves Joey Baker, Bates Jones and Jaylen Blakes, the minutes are as volatile as the trio’s production can be.
I must note that this criticism isn’t a knock on the three aforementioned guys, more so an acknowledgement that the production from Baker, Jones and, to a lesser extent, Blakes is far from consistent. Baker, your fourth-year guy and co-captain, has seen his minutes dwindle into the single digits since the Notre Dame game. He is Duke’s go-to shooter off the bench, but the senior has struggled to make a significant mark on a game since the Jan. 25 narrow home win over Clemson.
As for Jones, few expected the graduate transfer to see the floor often for the Blue Devils. He has seen an uptick in minutes, mainly because he is a serviceable stretch-four forward who can come in for spurts and give Banchero a rest. But really since the Virginia game where he kept the Blue Devils within striking distance in the first half with six early points, he’s failed to knock down his couple looks from distance of late. Nevertheless, he’ll continue to be a bench piece that will see the floor as Krzyzewski and Co. entrusts him to give good minutes and hopefully knock down a triple or two.
Blue Devils endure daunting stretch, but face tough task in ACC regular season title pursuits
The Blue Devils dropped the game at home to a Virginia side that has seemingly figured out, but had notched some bad losses in non-conference play. With the ACC being in a down year, teams, more than ever, will benefit from knocking off Duke. Undoubtedly, Krzyzewski and this Duke Basketball squad understand that, but the rather lackadaisical effort against Virginia proves the Blue Devils are susceptible to rather poor losses in conference play. Not only do their NCAA Tournament seeding prospects take a hit after conference losses, but so too does any chance of a regular season title.
At the moment, the Blue Devils remain tied for first place with Notre Dame. Duke rather convincingly trounced the Fighting Irish in South Bend in late-January, but will need to lock in for the final stretch of ACC games. The Blue Devils face a tougher task than Notre Dame with six games remaining on the docket, including matchups against Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina. Notre Dame will travel to Winston-Salem to take on the Demon Deacons, but faces much easier tests at home in Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Needless to say, if Duke Basketball is hoping for a share of the ACC regular season crown – it would be its first since 2010 – or an outright victory – its first since 2006 – Coach K and his final squad will likely need to go 5-1 or 6-0 down the stretch.
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