Duke

Duke overcomes sluggish start to beat Southern 78-61

Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) goes in for two easy points over Southern University guard Brendon Ganaway (5) in the first half of play. Duke battled Southern University on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham.
Duke guard Grayson Allen (3) goes in for two easy points over Southern University guard Brendon Ganaway (5) in the first half of play. Duke battled Southern University on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham. Chuck Liddy

After coming off a big win over No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday, the expectation coming into Friday’s game was that Duke should easily take care of business against Southern, which had lost three games to start its young season.

But that wasn’t the case.

Southern played No. 1 Duke tough, and even tied the game with a little more than five minutes left in the first half. But the Blue Devils ended the first half on a 15-5 run, and stayed ahead of Southern en route to a 78-61 win.

The Blue Devils came out sluggish in the first half. They turned the ball over eight times in the first 12 minutes of the game. They shot poorly from the free throw line. And with 5:39 left in the first half, the game was tied 27-27. At that point only three players – Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter and Alex O’Connell – had scored.

The Duke coaching staff did not look happy on the bench.

Nine seconds later, however, freshman guard Gary Trent Jr., hit a 3-pointer to give Duke the lead. The Blue Devils picked up the pace, and continued on a 10-0 run. At halftime they led by 10 points.

The second half wasn’t much prettier. The Jaguars stayed within range, but never got closer than the 10 points they trailed by in the first half.

Earlier in the week, the top ranked Blue Devils battled with the second-ranked Spartans and won 88-81. They played well on defense, forcing many turnovers. And on offense they took care of the basketball.

On Friday, the Blue Devils turned the ball over a season-high 15 times.

Wendell Carter Jr. led all scorers with 20 points. He also added 11 rebounds and 6 blocks. Bagley, who suffered an eye injury, in Tuesday’s game, was also effective. He scored 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Allen, who was coming off a 37-point performance against Michigan State, had only 10 points.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel III was back on the bench Friday night. Capel missed Duke’s game in Chicago, after his dad, Jeff Capel Jr. died. The elder Capel suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Fans wore blue ribbons for ALS awareness, and prior to the game, had a moment of silence in respect of the elder Capel.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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