CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/ DURHAM—The Duke Blue Devils won by 21 points Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, ending their preseason play with a margin that seems—at a glance, at least—plenty comfortable. But exhibition play doesn’t necessarily mean easy play, and against last year’s NCAA Division II national champions, the Broncos of Cal Poly Pomona, the Devils earned an exercise in discipline and second-half adjustments.
“We’re going to be a developing team,” Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski explained after the game, dismissing ideas that his own defending national champions would be perfect all year. “We are going to look bad. We have to go through a process of getting better.”
The Devils did just that, even between halves, Thursday night: In the first half, the Broncos out-rebounded the Devils, grabbing 11 offensive boards to the home team’s paltry five. Duke reversed the trend in the second half. On his way to 13 first-half points, Bronco forward Tobias Jahn scored his team’s first six points by bucking his way through the middle. Both Duke and Cal Poly scored 26 points in the paint during the first 20 minutes. But Jahn scored only once during the second half, though, as his team only managed to score six from inside to Duke’s 26.
“We played hard the first half,” said Cal Poly coach Greg Kamansky. His Broncos headed to the locker room down by just six. Their quick, early scoring made the Broncos more comfortable to compete, he said, especially after Duke’s season-opening 73-point victory versus St. Augustine’s. “Second half, we kind of ran out of gas.”
Duke will have to work on finding the throttle early this season. The team’s high-energy approach made for exciting if sometimes erratic basketball Thursday. Alley-oops again accounted for a healthy fraction of Duke’s scoring, and both freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and sophomore forward Mason Plumlee stunned with several difficult passes. But Duke had 14 turnovers, eight of which came in the first half and 11 of which came at the hands of Cal Poly steals. Past the three-point line, Duke shot just two of 15 for the game, missing all eight of its attempts in the second half.
Duke seemed most effective in transition, moving the ball with pizazz up the floor (causing, of course, some of those turnovers). With athletic forwards Mason and Miles Plumlee, they should be able to move the ball inside and outside this year. They’ll just have to land the shots when they have them—something that didn’t always happen tonight.
Duke begins regular season play Sunday, Nov. 14, at 5 p.m., versus Princeton, in Durham.