- The No. 4 Duke Blue Devils beat a Division-II team by just six points in their first exhibition game of the season.
- Context doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for this year’s Duke team – in the 15 years since they started playing exhibition games to open the year, the Blue Devils had never before failed to win by double digits.
- Coach K‘s squad shot just 42.2% from the floor and only sank two shots from beyond the arc despite 16 attempts on the night.
- “Around the basket, we left a lot of points on the court. We should have scored a lot more points,” head coach Krzyzewski said after the game.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For the best college basketball teams in the nation, early-season exhibition games are meant to help powerhouse programs lock in their lineups and prepare for the more gruelling schedule that lies ahead.
In other words, they’re designed to be blowouts.
So when the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils just barely escaped with a six-point victory in their first exhibition game of the year at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday night, it was more than just peculiar. Now add in the fact that their opponent was Northwest Missouri State – a Division-II school – and you’ll begin to understand why Duke fans across the country feel panicked about a game that doesn’t even count towards the team’s record on the season.
“I would say [they were] disappointed, and they should be,” legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his players after the contest. “They expected to be better. That’s good. If they were laughing and joking and giving high-fives, then they would be acceptant of the fact that they didn’t play as well.”
“Our guys need to get older and tougher,” he added.
Context doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for this year’s Blue Devils. Superstar Zion Williamson and Duke’s two additional top-10 2019 NBA Draft picks won their exhibition games by a whopping 63 points on average last season. The year before, the Blue Devils averaged 48 points more than their early-season foes. And prior to the 2017-18 season, that number was 42.
In fact, in the 15 years since the Blue Devils started playing exhibition games to open the year, Duke has never failed to win by double digits. That is, until now.
Krzyzewski – better known to most as Coach K – described Saturday night’s showing as “really a good game for us” despite his team’s obvious issues on the offensive side of the court. The Blue Devils shot 42.2% from the floor and 12.5% from beyond the arc on the night. No player who attempted more than three shots averaged more than 50% shooting, and only two of Duke’s players racked up more than 10 points in the unflattering affair.
“Offensively, we are not a good shooting team,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “Around the basket, we left a lot of points on the court. We should have scored a lot more points.”
The Bearcats, on the other hand, shot lights-out from three-point range. Three of their players registered double-digit scoring, including a 27-point performance from sophomore Trevor Hudgins.
Krzyzewski didn’t seem particularly surprised by the fact that head coach Ben McCollum’s squad stuck around with his Blue Devils. Last season, Northwest Missouri State went a perfect 38-0 en route to its second NCAA Division II national championship in three years. And with a much more experienced roster than Coach K’s band of 18-year-olds, the Bearcats managed to keep their composure in one of the most hostile environments in all of college basketball.
“We knew coming in how good they have been and are,” Krzyzewski said. “You don’t win 100 out of the last 105 games … without having great kids, really good talent, and outstanding coaching… We beat an outstanding team tonight.”
Duke will host Fort Valley State for its second and final exhibition game of the season Wednesday before the Blue Devils begin their arduous regular-season schedule. They will travel to New York City to take on the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the 2019 Champions Classic November 5 and, less than a month later, will face off against Tom Izzo’s top-ranked Michigan State Spartans on the road.
The early season will certainly be a trial by fire for Duke, and if Saturday’s lacklustre performance was any indication, it may result in burnout for the Blue Devils.
- Read more:
- Charles Barkley says Vice President Mike Pence ‘needs to shut the hell up’ over comments on NBA’s feud with China
- Michael Jordan raised eyebrows in the NBA world by saying Stephen Curry is ‘not a Hall of Famer yet’
- WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith played an entire season with the Dallas Wings while pregnant and ‘didn’t tell a soul’
- International soccer star Sam Kerr didn’t know her league’s MVP award was being announced until minutes before she won it
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.