The Duke basketball team snapped its three game losing streak on Saturday with a 88-78 victory at N.C. State.
The win moved the Blue Devils to 15-5 and 4-3 in the ACC, where they now sit at 8th place in the conference standings.
Duke was led by Grayson Allen, who finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. The team also got another strong effort from Brandon Ingram, who had 25 points and 7 rebounds.
It was a solid win for a group that hasn’t had much to be positive about over the past few weeks.
Here are five big takeaways from the game.
With its back against the wall, Duke responded.
When N.C. State took a 10-point lead in the first half and seemingly couldn’t miss from 3-point range, it looked like Duke’s hopes (and possibly NCAA Tournament chances) were on the brink of collapse. Instead of being overwhelmed by the moment, the Blue Devils came out of the halftime break with two quick 3-pointers of their own to change the momentum of the game.
Duke went on to shoot 70% from the field and almost 64% from the perimeter in the 2nd half in one of its best 20 minutes of basketball this season.
When this team faced a challenge that absolutely required a response, it found a way. Hopefully that’s something to build from.
Multiple guys stepped up down the stretch.
During the 3-game losing streak, Duke struggled to make winning plays in the closing minutes. At N.C. State, multiple players were ready for the big moment.
Between Grayson Allen converting a layup as the shot clock expired, Luke Kennard driving to the basket and finding Brandon Ingram for an open 3, or Marshall Plumlee with a big offensive rebound, Duke was the team with guys who made winning plays.
Play More Zone Defense
The defensive issues for this group aren’t going away anytime soon. And while a zone defense isn’t exactly foolproof (especially for a team that struggles to rebound), I think it gives Duke its best chance to succeed moving forward.
It helps Coach K keep his guys out of foul trouble and it should help them avoid fatigue if they’re not expected to play a high-pressure man-to-man defense.
It also doesn’t hurt that consistent perimeter shooting has become a rarity in college basketball, and Duke can live with teams being able to knock down outside shots to win. N.C. State tried. It only worked for one half.
The best offense runs through Kennard and Allen.
While neither guy is a point guard, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen are the best players on the Duke roster in terms of creating scoring opportunities for themselves and their teammates.
Both have tremendous shooting range that opposing teams have to respect, and both guys also possess the ability to attack off the dribble and finish at the rim.
Derryck Thornton is the best long-term option for the Blue Devils at the point guard position, but he doesn’t appear ready to consistently handle that responsibility. Brandon Ingram is also good with the ball in his hands, but he’s most effective at creating his own shot.
For now, Kennard and Allen are this group’s best bet.
Duke needs to build off this.
While a win over any team is good when you’re trying to snap a 3-game losing streak, the reality is that Saturday’s victory came over a N.C. State team that’s now 1-6 in the ACC. Winning on the road in conference play is never easy, but this was a game the Blue Devils couldn’t afford to lose.
Now, Duke will hope to carry this momentum into an opportunity to get its first big win of the season. It feels weird to say this, but a win at Miami on Monday night would be a big boost for Duke’s NCAA Tournament resume.
The Hurricanes are ranked No. 15 in the current polls and No. 13 in Kenpom and a victory in Coral Gables would statistically be Duke’s best win of the season. It’s a quick turnaround, but let’s hope the Blue Devils are ready.