Duke Basketball gets one of the eight wins in order to help win the final ACC/Big Ten Challenge after beating the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Duke Basketball Head Coach Jon Scheyer picked up his first win against an AP top 25 team on Wednesday with the Blue Devils’ 81-72 win over Ohio State. It’s a good resume booster, a bragging rights game for the conference but most importantly it represents some growth that this young team, heavily reliant on freshman and transfer talent, is starting to make.
Through the first eight games, the Blue Devils had some stretches of offensive struggles and they clearly have had some work to do on both sides of the ball. Against Ohio State, they proved that there has been some growth and improvement as this team is still on its road to figuring out what its identity will be moving forward. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the nine-point victory.
Blue Devils get five scorers in double figures
For the first time since their win over Delaware, Duke had five players score in double figures, displaying the scoring balance this team is capable of when fully healthy. Dereck Lively (11 points), Tyrese Proctor (12 points), Jeremy Roach (13 points), and Kyle Filipowski (16 points) were the Duke starters in double figures while Ryan Young chipped in ten points off the bench.
One thing that has plagued some of the last few Duke teams has been scoring depth or depth in general. Coach K kept some of those last teams pretty tight when it came to the rotations but Scheyer is still learning how to incorporate his bench and discover the lineup combinations that click the best. Against Ohio State, they struck a great balance that saw not only five players score at least ten points but saw all nine players that checked in score a bucket from the floor. It’s one of their best offensive outputs so far this season and it’s the kind of balance that will be required if they are to contend in a top-heavy ACC.
Dominance of the offensive glass
Duke hasn’t shot the ball well all season long. They haven’t even been exceptional at many things on offense except…the glass. Coming into the game, Duke was the number one offensive rebounding team in college basketball per KenPom and they used their offensive rebounding capabilities to survive some rocky offensive stretches in the first half and again to seal the game in the late stages.
The Blue Devils grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and added a plethora of second-chance points including three from Young and Filipowski each. With this team learning how to play cohesively, the offensive rebounding advantage that they have over most teams can help erase many of the early season mistakes that teams led by freshmen often make.
As they try to establish a team identity, it’s been pretty clear early on that their best offense so far is when there is a missed shot, and Lively, Filipowski or Young can be there to clean up the mess. As the season goes along and improvements are made with shot selection and percentages increase, that offensive rebounding ability can be what sets them apart in close games.
Visible growth from Proctor and Lively
The freshmen on this team still have some growth to do. Filipowski has been a reliable scorer but still has some polishing to do defensively. It feels like Scheyer is figuring out how to unlock the offensive abilities of Mark Mitchell. But for Proctor and Lively, there seemed to be some growth made, especially from Proctor.
Proctor has seemed uncomfortable at times this season acclimating to college basketball. It’s not unusual and especially not in Proctor’s case as he could still be a senior in high school this year because of his re-classification. Proctor followed up his season-high 16 points against Purdue with 12 against Ohio State, playing primarily off the ball. He recorded only one assist but it came from one of the best plays of the game as he cut into the teeth of the OSU defense, wrapped around a defender to drop a bounce pass that was scored by Young to put Duke up 70-62.
For Lively, he’s getting acclimated into the role we will probably see him in this year. As the starting center that sets good screens, rolls to the basket grab offensive rebounds, and runs the floor in transition. In his 20 minutes of play on Wednesday night, he did all of that well. Lively recorded 11 points on 4-5 shooting and made all three of his free throws. Defensively, his two blocked shots showed glimpses of the long, athletic rim protector that made him one of the most highly coveted recruits in college basketball. If he can continue to do all of that without fouling (four fouls in 20 minutes), he’ll single-handedly raise the ceiling of that defense similar to what Chet Holmgren did with Gonzaga last season.
Duke passed a tough test on Wednesday night: beating a ranked team on a nationally televised stage. They failed in their previous two attempts but seemingly got things together in the last thirty minutes of the game. When it comes to what identity Scheyer’s first team will have, it’s still inconclusive. But here’s what we know: they are an elite offensive rebounding unit, the rotation will be at least nine players deep and the team’s early offensive production comes from the frontcourt.
There are still plenty of “ifs” on this team. If Filipowski can develop defensively if Scheyer can unlock the best way to incorporate Mitchell and Dariq Whitehead, if Jacob Grandison can become a reliable source of bench scoring, if Proctor can raise the team’s three-point ceiling, if Lively can give you 25-30 minutes of great production without fouling then….you probably have a really good team. It’s still very early, but Wednesday night was a good step in the right direction for Duke.