‘We dealt with our stuff’: Duke men’s basketball relies on bench scoring to overwhelm Florida State

No. 1 after a mediocre ACC road loss at Wake Forest. 17 Duke needs a big response in the final game of the calendar year. Against Florida State, it won 86-67.

The Blue Devils took advantage of their trademark tough defense and exploiting the offensive glass, two things they faced last time out in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Blue Devils allowed 13 turnovers and converted 10 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points, a recipe for success in a solid conference game.

So far this season, Duke has relied on the same players to make a difference in crunch time, most often junior guard Jeremy Roach and 7-foot freshman Kyle Filiposki. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, neither player brought their Class-A game on Saturday, with Roach still battling his injuries and Filipowski currently struggling to find him in the ACC. A foothold in the game.

However, head coach Jon Scheyer has shown he’s not afraid to use his depth extensively, and the move paid off Saturday. Duke has 46 bench points to Florida State’s eight, a stat that perfectly demonstrates Scheyer’s potential with a variety of lineups. Two players who were largely overlooked before the season began, second-year guard Jalen Blakes and graduate center Ryan Young, were the catalysts for the win.

“Whether you’re starting or not, coming off the bench, that’s something we’ve talked about a lot in terms of depth, and that’s still our strength,” Sheyer said after the game. “You can play nine guys, you know, and they play a lot of time.”

After scoring a career-high 17 points against Wake Forest, Brecks broke into the starting lineup for the first time in his Duke career Saturday and proved he belongs in the top five. Blakes took over early on, scoring the first five points for Duke, part of a career-high 17 points.

In addition to his trademark tenacity on the defensive end, Brex appears to be unlocking some untapped offensive potential. In particular, the second-year guard was excellent from beyond the arc, going 4 for 6 in a game where other teams struggled downtown. It’s clear that Blakes has worked hard to improve his game during the offseason and extended rest throughout December, and Scheyer has clearly recognized that and paid him off. Whether Blakes will continue to start is yet to be determined, but it’s clear that he’s playing an increasing role on this year’s team.

“Really proud of what he’s done,” Schell said of Blakes. “You know, he hasn’t played in a year. He’s been to different environments. And he’s just grown up. He works as hard as our workers. He works on game plans in ways you can’t believe, and I’m so proud and happy for him. “

In a year when Duke brought in a top recruiting class led by the nation’s top big men Dereck Lively II and Filipowski, it was a graduate transfer who dominated the interior for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Young delivered his best performance as a Blue Devil and one of the franchise’s most impressive performances in recent memory. Everything Young touched was gold as he went 7-for-7 from the field and 6-for-6 from the charity stripe to finish the day with 20 points.

Young also grabbed 12 rebounds, the most valuable aspect of his game for this Duke team. Five of those rebounds came on offensive rebounds, a category in which Duke leads the country. Young’s focus on rebounding was almost certainly a result of the rebounding battle with Wake Forest, which was clearly the team’s post-Christmas focus.

“Defensive rebounding has to be something we hang on our hats, and I’m glad we bounced like we did,” Young said. “I think we handled our business.”

“You know, I’m sure I’ll find something that he could have done better,” Schell said when asked if he thought Young’s performance was perfect. “But it’s pretty close.”

Another cog in the Duke machine that won’t necessarily deliver flashy numbers so far is Dariq Whitehead. The freshman forward battled preseason injuries but has started to hit his stride. He had career-high scoring nights in back-to-back games, had 16 points in Saturday’s offensive display, and showcased the elite driving and shooting ability that coaches across the country are chasing after high school. he.

Unfortunately for Whitehead, he didn’t get the most out of his December performance after missing multiple practices and Wake Forest games with illness. However, these aggressive outbursts were only a matter of time before the gifted defender.

It’s clear that Whitehead’s confidence is growing, and Duke can take great advantage of his improved play. “I kind of feel like it’s coming,” Whitehead said.

Duke’s depth was on display in the final game of 2022, painting a more promising picture for the rest of the season. If Brex, Young and Whitehead maintain their current levels, their minutes could continue to increase, making an already strong team even more dangerous.

The Blue Devils now hope to carry the momentum from Saturday’s win into the new year. When asked about his New Year’s resolution, Blakes said, “Win a national championship.”

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