Duke’s fresh­men know there will be chal­lenges ahead

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY STEVE WISE­MAN swise­man@new­sob­server.com

Their own Hall of Fame coach, who’s seen plenty in his 71 years on earth, called their play “mag­nif­i­cent.”

Now the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils, fresh off a 118-84 shel­lack­ing of No. 2 Ken­tucky last Tues­day night, have to come down to earth and pre­pare for the chal­lenges that lie ahead.

The Blue Devils face less-her­alded foes in Army, on Sun­day at 1 p.m., and East­ern Michi­gan, on Wed­nes­day at 7 p.m., at Cameron In­door Sta­dium. Nei­ther are top-25 teams, let alone a fel­low ti­tle con­tender like Ken­tucky.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have as­sem­bled a team clearly tal­ented enough to chal­lenge for a na­tional cham­pi­onship. Still the Blue Devils are do­ing their best to stay grounded even as their stel­lar sea­son-open­ing per­for­mance has al­ready spurred talk of them waltz­ing to a na­tional ti­tle.

“We’re only 1-0,” Duke ju­nior cen­ter Mar­ques Bolden said Fri­day. “We haven’t re­ally done much of any­thing. No con­fer­ence games. We’ve barely started the sea­son. So our iden­tity is go­ing to be found out later.”

In the sea­son-open­ing win at the Cham­pi­ons Clas­sic in In­di­anapo­lis, Duke (1-0) cer­tainly es­tab­lished it­self as a high­fly­ing young group ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing with any­one in the coun­try.


Fresh­men R.J. Bar­rett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Red­dish com­bined to score 83 points, one shy of what Ken­tucky scored as a team in the game.

Duke needed less than 10 min­utes of game ac­tion to open a 21-point lead. Ken­tucky never drew closer than 12 points the rest of the game.

Bar­rett scored 33 points, Williamson 28 and Red­dish 22 for Duke. Fel­low fresh­man point guard Tre Jones had seven as­sists and no turnovers in the run­away win.

Even though the per­for­mances came in their first col­le­giate game, the fresh­men know tougher games lie ahead.

“They’re smarter than that,” Bolden said. “They know more than to think that ev­ery game is go­ing to be like that. They are a tal­ented group. As ev­ery­body saw, they can re­ally play. But to stay con­sis­tent is re­ally the big­gest key.”

In film re­view and prac­tices since the team re­turned to Durham early Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Duke’s coaches have stressed the im­por­tance of prepa­ra­tion and con­sis­tency to the young team.

“We are try­ing to ig­nore all the out­side noise and just keep fo­cus­ing on our­selves and try­ing to get bet­ter ev­ery sin­gle game,” Jones said Fri­day after prac­tice.


The score may not show it, but Duke did have some dif­fi­cul­ties. Six Blue Devils had two fouls in the first half, in­clud­ing ju­nior re­serve for­ward Javin DeLau­rier’s three. Prior to the game ESPN an­a­lyst Jay Bi­las said the thought Ken­tucky had, play­ers one through nine in its ro­ta­tion, the best team in the coun­try.

Al­though three Duke play­ers fin­ished with four fouls and two more had three, no Blue Devils fouled out as they played through ad­ver­sity to win eas­ily any­way. But the Blue Devils know they can’t have that kind of foul trou­ble ev­ery night and ex­pect to keep win­ning.

“We play re­ally phys­i­cal in prac­tice so that kind of flowed over into the game with all those fouls,” Bolden said. “We’ll just try to keep our hands off peo­ple and talk to the refs to see what we were do­ing wrong.”

Bolden said the team is hav­ing no prob­lem zon­ing out the na­tional con­ver­sa­tions about Duke’s great­ness be­cause “if we would have lost that game they would be the same peo­ple say­ing that we weren’t ready this year. It kind of goes in one ear and out the other.”

While Red­dish said after the Ken­tucky game Duke wanted to make a state­ment in its opener, Jones said the Blue Devils have yet to es­tab­lish an iden­tity.

“We are still try­ing to do that,” Jones said. “We are try­ing to fo­cus on de­fense and do­ing the lit­tle things right now.”

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