Inside the numbers: A deep dive into Duke basketball’s win over Kansas

No. 4 Duke’s 68-66 win over No. 3 Kansas on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden came on a night when the Blue Devils were strong defensively, as expected, and also inconsistent offensively, which was also expected.

Looking at advanced statistics, compiled by both Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com and Synergy Sports Technology, provides a closer look at the how and why.

Here’s a look at five areas of the game and what the advanced stats show:


The Blue Devils made only 35.9 percent of their field goals, including 8 of 24 3-pointers.

As a team, Duke’s offense was inefficient, scoring only 0.773 points per possession. Compare that to last season, when Duke finished No 7 in the country with 1.2 points per possession.

Against Kansas, Duke made only 4 of 13 shots (30.8 percent) in catch and shoot situations. Oddly, the Blue Devils were 2 of 4 when guarded closely on those shots but 2 of 9 when left unguarded.

Freshman forward Matthew Hurt had five catch-and-shoot opportunities, making 1 of 5. He was 0 of 3 when unguarded but made 1 of 2 while guarded, with the lone make being his 3-pointer with 3:48 left that put Duke up 59-58.

Duke’s most efficient offensive player, freshman Cassius Stanley, accounted for 1.083 points per possession. He had no catch-and-shoot chances, but was 3-for-3 on shots in transition and made his only shot (a 3-pointer) as the primary ball handler on pick-and-roll plays.


Of course this is where Duke thrived and it expects to throughout the season.

The Blue Devils played man defense 94.4 percent of the time while using zone on only four possessions. Because Krzyzewski so respected Kansas guards Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji, Duke only used its press defense on seven possessions.

Kansas scored just 0.73 points per possession against Duke, mostly because the Blue Devils limited the Jayhawks’ transition opportunities.

Kansas hit 6 of 8 shots in transition, scoring 1.13 points per possession there. But in the half court, the Jayhawks shot 38 percent while scoring 0.653 points per possession. Duke slowed the game down and put Kansas in its half-court offense 82 percent of the time.

The Jayhawks’ 28 turnovers were a key factor here and Duke recorded 11 steals, led by junior guard Alex O’Connell’s three.

Sophomore guard Tre Jones found himself the main defender in three spot-up situations and forced turnovers in two of them. While guarding pick-and-roll ball handlers in four such situations, Stanley allowed 1 of 3 shots to be made while also forcing a turnover.

Senior reserve forward Javin DeLaurier forced two turnovers in the only two situations where he was an isolated defender.

Ball movement

Duke recorded 12 assists on its 23 made field goals, so it assisted on 52.1 percent of its baskets.

Last year’s national average was 51.9 percent and Duke finished at 52.4 percent. So the opening night performance was a solid one in this department.

Tre Jones led Duke with seven assists, which figures to regularly be the case this season. O’Connell contributed two assists off the bench while not committing a turnover.

Subscribe to the N&O's Sports Pass for Duke coverage

Get top-notch coverage of Duke sports from Steve Wiseman and Luke DeCock. Sign up for The N&O's digital sports-only subscription for only $30 per year.

Ball protection

The Blue Devils turned the ball over 16 times with Kansas causing the majority of them with 11 steals.

Stanley and fellow freshman Wendell Moore led Duke with four turnovers each.

Duke protected the ball best in spot-up situations, with just one turnover on 15 such possessions, and in transition, with just one turnover on 17 possessions in transition.

Duke’s ball handler in pick-and-roll situations turned it over three times. Moore was guilty of two of those on just four such possessions, with Jones committing the one on his 11 possessions.

Controlling the boards

Duke lost the rebounding battle to the taller, older Jayhawks 40-30.

Udoka Azubuike, Kansas’ 7-foot senior center, had eight rebounds but 6-10 sophomore forward David McCormack was even more troublesome with 13 rebounds. Silvio De Sousa, a 6-9 sophomore forward, contributed three offensive rebounds to match McCormack for most by the Jayhawks, who rebounded 34.5 percent of their missed shots.

Duke, meanwhile, only rebounded 26.8 percent of its misses.

Duke’s leading rebounders were Jones and freshman center Vernon Carey with six each. Yes, the Blue Devils’ starting point guard matched its starting center in the rebounding category.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.