The Duke basketball team won its first championship of the 2016-17 season Sunday afternoon with a victory over Rhode Island at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Championship in Connecticut.
The Blue Devils overcame a collection of injuries and bruises to grind out a 75-65 victory and moved to 4-1 on the season.
The team was led by outstanding performances from Luke Kennard and Amile Jefferson, who dominated the game from both the perimeter and the paint. Kennard had a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, while Jefferson had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The production from Kennard and Jefferson also made up for a poor shooting day for Grayson Allen, who had 10 points but was just 3-of-11 from the field and was clearly slowed by the injuries that have bothered him over the past week.
Despite having a limited rotation due to injuries and playing on back-to-back days, Duke controlled the pace for much of the game and executed beautiful half-court offense, generating a lead that was as much as 18 points in the second half.
Rhode Island appeared to be well positioned to give the Blue Devils a tough fight and kept things close in the first half, before Duke went on a run before halftime to create an eight point lead.
Duke also did a great job defensively on Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews, a likely contender for the A-10 Player of the Year award. Matthews was held to 9 points, well below his season average of 19.5
Considering the health of this team, Mike Krzyzewski has to be very pleased with how his guys fought to earn two tough wins at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Championship. Now, let’s hope a few healthy reinforcements are on the way.