Duke’s 78-61 win over Southern on Friday night was not pretty.
The Blue Devils, now 4-0, struggled throughout the game. But the tough win afforded them some lessons.
Here is what we learned from No. 1 Duke’s win:
Duke is not unbeatable: Southern did not care that it was playing the No. 1 team in the country. Nor did it care that the team was Duke. And it sure didn’t care that Duke had beaten the No. 2 team, Michigan State, earlier in the week. All it cared about was trying to beat the team in front of it.
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While that didn’t happen, the Jaguars sure made it interesting in the first half. The score was tied at 27, as late as 5:39 left in the first half. The Jaguars came out and, at times, bullied the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils were sluggish and appeared out of rhythm. After a career-high 37 points on Tuesday, senior guard Grayson Allen had a season-low 10 points on Friday, along with three turnovers.
Freshman point guard, Trevon Duval, who had 30 assists to only four turnovers prior to Friday’s game, had only four assists and two turnovers on this night.
The Blue Devils had a season-high 15 turnovers. They had more turnovers than they did assists (14).
When asked why he believed they played so poorly early in the first half, Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III, said, “I have no clue.”
“We just didn’t come out ready,” Bagley said.
The way Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski explained it was like this:
“Part of it had to do with, a big part, was how well they played and another part of it is just how we had to manage this week. I’m not sure if you realize you have to give a day off every week to kids. If you have a three-game week, which we have almost a four-game week next week, we can’t give a day off, so then you either have to give two days off either the week before or the week after.
“We can’t give it the week after because we have another bunch of games; we have nine games in 20 days and a travel day doesn’t count as a day off. So, we won a big game, and then we had to give them two days off.”
After being tied 27-27, Duke ended the half on a 15-5 run. It led by 10 points at halftime. Duke freshman Wendell Carter Jr., said what Krzyzewski said at halftime was simple.
“That we were playing horrible,” he said. “I think that clicked everybody on. We got a little better, but we have to learn how to start the game like that.”
Marvin Bagley is going to be OK: Bagley said his eye is getting better and his vision is back to normal. The 6-11, 234-pound forward, suffered an eye injury Tuesday night in No. 1 Duke’s game over No. 2 Michigan State. Teammate Javin DeLaurier accidentally poked Bagley in the eye as he tried to jump and grab for a rebound.
“I was going for the rebound and his finger went right in my eye, and I blacked out on the right side of my eye,” Bagley recalled. “When I was on the ground I tried to open my eye and get up and try to keep playing, but I couldn’t see out of my eye. It was just black, like somebody had ... they were covering my eye. And I couldn’t see for at least 45 minutes.”
It turns out Bagley has a scratch in his eye. His eye remains red. But Bagley scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds and two blocks on Friday.
“It was great news to hear he could come back and he could see,” Allen said. “He’s obviously a huge part of our team, and he can do some many things on the floor, it just opens it up for so many guys.”
Life is bigger than basketball: Last week, Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel III lost his father, Jeff Capel Jr., to his battle with ALS. He was 64. Duke had a moment of silence for the late college basketball coach. Fans and the coaching staff also wore blue ribbons on their shirts in honor of the elder Capel.
The younger Capel was back on the bench Friday after missing Tuesday’s game as the family grieved. Krzyzewski said there will be a service on Sunday in Fayetteville for the elder Capel, and the coaching staff and team will be there.