Barrett in fine form as the Duke Blue Devils make hard work of the Hartford Hawks

Duke Blue Devils defeated Hartford 84-54 Wednesday night, to run its record to 8-1.

The game was not the stroll in the park the final score suggests. Hartford came into the game 3-6. But they were not easy pickings. The Hawks won 19 games last season–one in the CIT–and started five seniors.

Barrett led everyone with 27 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. His first Duke double-double. Williamson had 18 points and a dozen rebounds, Tre Jones added 10 points and six assists.

But the unsung hero was Javin DeLaurier. He came off the bench to deliver ten points, four rebounds, five blocks and three steals in 19 minutes.

Duke never did find the range from downtown, shooting 5-for-26 on 3s, with Reddish a woeful 1-for-9. But Duke was 30-43 on 2-pointers, got to the foul line 11 times in the second half, making 7 and outscored Hartford 36-3 in fast-break points. Duke out-rebounded Hartford 46-32, while forcing 21 turnovers, with 15 steals and 10 blocks.

Their game plan was simple but well-executed. Milk the shot clock on offense, surround ZIon Williamson with a physical zone and dare Duke to knock down 3s.

It helped their cause that Duke came out flat. Mike Krzyzewski said that “the defense never gave the offense energy” in the first half.

Duke Blue Devils jumped to a 12-2 lead. But then Williamson missed a dunk-seriously–and Hartford clawed back into the game. Duke did not attack Hartford’s zone with much enthusiasm, too often settling for the first available three-pointer.

The half ended with Duke up 33-24, having shot 3-for-16 from beyond the arc, while shooting only two foul shots, both by Marques Bolden.

Any half in which Duke shoots two foul shots is not one for the time capsule.

Jack White concedes Duke was “flat” early, adding, “I don’t think we were ourselves in the first half. We looked a bit timid. We weren’t sharing the ball. They were getting some easy looks that we should have prevented. We came into the locker room at halftime, took a look at things and re-evaluated where we were at, especially mentally and tried to respond with more energy, more talk.”

It got even tighter early in the second half, when Hartford used a five-point possession–field goal, missed free throw, offensive rebound, three-pointer–to make it 36-31.

Then, Duke got serious on defense.

Krzyzewski called timeout and Javin DeLaurier says his team re-focused on turning defense into offense.

“Coach called timeout and got us all together and let us know that we weren’t playing like ourselves. We turned it up from there. We know that our success starts with our defense. When we get out and our defense turns our offense into transition offense, we’re the best team in the country.”

“Too many live-ball turnovers in that last 10-minute segment,” Hartford coach John Gallagher lamented. “They wore us down.”

It hurt Hartford that John Carroll, their best player, fouled out with 13:50 left after committing two offensive fouls minutes apart.

Gallagher admitted he rolled the dice leaving Carroll in.

“He was on a bit of a roll. You’ve got to be a gambler or you’re not a gambler. I guess we’re gamblers.”

The key play may have been Jack White’s steal and dunk with 11:43 left, putting Duke up 51-39 and sparking a decisive 21-6 run.

“I was just trying to get in the lanes, disrupt their offense,” he says of that play, ”and it just happened to work out my way and get the crowd going a little bit. I wouldn’t say that was the sole contributor to the big run. It was just a group of plays being put together and getting us going.”

White’s play was followed by transitions 3s by Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett making it 54-39 and 59-42 respectively and some highlight-reel dunks by Williamson and Barrett. If you missed Williamson’s pass off the backboard to Barrett for a dunk, don’t worry; it’s probably already all over social media.

“I thought they played harder than we did for about 22 minutes,” Krzyzewski summed up. “But we played as hard or harder than them after that. We really played well the last 16 or 17 minutes because our defense just got ramped up.”

Next up for the Duke Blue Devils is the Yale Bulldogs on Saturday.

Peace,

Burke

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