Duke shows continued growth in 87-65 NCAA First Round win
Posted March 17
Duke took another step Friday in its continually-developing season, jumping ahead of Troy quickly en route to its 87-65 NCAA Tournament First Round win.
" I thought we had good energy," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I thought we started great. "
Jayson Tatum scored the first points of the night from behind the arc just 12 seconds into the game, setting the tone for the team and his own performance immediately.
Duke (29-7) lead 16-4 at the first timeout and ended the first half with 10 three-pointers, punctuated by Grayson Allen's long shot with nine seconds left before the first buzzer.
"It was nice to see the first one go in when Jayson shot it," Allen said. "That just opened it up for our team. We did a really good job moving the ball around, it was in rhythm. When you get the ball in rhythm like we did, the shots tend to go in.
"Offensively, we can really space the floor, we have a lot of guys that can knock down the three."
Allen led the team with 21 points on five threes and Tatum finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, recording the first double-double by a Duke freshman in an NCAA tournament debut since Danny Ferry in 1986 vs Mississippi Valley State.
Matt Jones, who sank three three-pointers, and Frank Jackson, who added two behind-the-arc shots, each added 14 points.
"We like to stay aggressive right from the start," Jackson said. "We look for our shots, look for our openings. We really shared the ball well and it started with our defense on the other end."
Despite the Blue Devils dominating first half, the 52-38 lead shrank.
"That early lead was important because they kept chipping away at it," Allen said. "A team like that doesn't go away, we they can hit shots like they can, it doesn't matter how big your lead is, they can come back."
The Trojans only make five shots from behind the arc despite averaging 5.5 a game. But in the second half, Troy proved how true Allen's recognition is by closing within nine points.
Duke answered with two of its three second-half threes on back-to-back possessions by Jones, then Allen.
From the veteran perspective, the Blue Devils' ability to lockdown more on the Trojans and rebound more attentively -- adjusting for the higher number of threes that Troy took and anticipating the long rebound -- made the difference with a slimmer lead.
"We have to keep playing defense," Amile Jefferson said. "We won that game because we started getting stops. That's why we were able to extend a lead because they made a good push."
Ahead of Sunday's NCAA Tournament Second Round game, playing defense to match the now well-oiled, signature-style Blue Devils offensive machine is the focus for Duke.
As Jefferson explains, in this postseason, "that's something that has to be our mantra: get stops and take Duke shots."