Duke’s worst win in program history paints grim picture of season ahead

Despite winning both games, Duke’s poor shot selection this week against Bellarmine and OSU won’t hold up against better opponents.

Freshman Kyle Filipowski shoots a free throw toward the end of Duke’s game against Bellarmine. Filipowski is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds so far this season Photo by Isaac Janiak Stein.

Right now, Duke is a broken record, and they’re stuck on a horrible song. While they’ve won their last two matchups, their performances in both have been incredibly disheartening, and I’m not optimistic about their chances going forward against better opponents. 

Duke’s 17-point win on Monday over Bellarmine ended in a way characteristic of their whole second-half struggles. Duke missed an open three, leading Bellarmine to make a three to end the game. The Blue Devils’ large margin of victory wasn’t representative of how poorly they played, especially in the second half. Unfortunately for Scheyer’s young team, their struggles continued against Oregon State yesterday. 

The name of the game for the Devils recently has been poor shot selection. Down the stretch, they’ve consistently settled for bad three-pointers instead of running plays or trying to get in the paint. Yesterday, against Oregon State, they took 29 shots beyond the arc and only made 5. That’s an awful 17 percent from three on high-volume shooting. Overall, Duke wasn’t much better, shooting 26.7% from the field, the lowest ever field goal percentage in a win in Duke basketball history. Leaving aside their historically bad shooting, their rebounding was the only thing that saved them yesterday against the Beavers, as they out rebounded Oregon State 22 to 6 on the offensive end and 45 to 29 overall. Simply put, Duke won by only three points against a team that should have had no chance against them.

The cold truth is that the Blue Devils can’t play winning basketball with these numbers and this style of play. They won’t be able to withstand a tough ACC conference, and they certainly won’t make it against any ranked opponent if this continues.

To me, the problem is clear as day. Duke needs to stop settling for threes, and get in the paint. Down the stretch, Scheyer’s squad did the same thing over and over again against Bellarmine on Monday and Oregon State yesterday. They dribbled down the court and settled for low percentage three-point shots that they kept missing. They didn’t run a play or feed Filipowski, Young, or Mitchell down low, who have all proven they can operate well there. Against Bellarmine especially, they repeatedly got the ball on the wing and settled for bad shots instead of passing, driving, or doing anything but shooting a three. They had many chances to drive from the corner and draw the defense or take it to the hoop. I really don’t understand how Scheyer could let this same mistake happen again and again, not just in one stretch, one half, or one game, but two games in a row.

I had a rare moment where I actually felt like I could do a better job coaching at home on my couch. If I was in Scheyer’s place, in either game, I would have called timeout and told the team they couldn’t shoot any more threes unless they had five feet of room between them and the nearest defender. 

Duke lines up to shake hands with Bellarmine after their 17-point win on Monday. Photo by Isaac Janiak Stein.

Despite their struggles, Duke has shown flashes of good play. When Roach or Blakes can get a pick at the top of the key, they’ve been successful driving inside, either creating their own shot or drawing the defense and dishing to an open shooter or someone by the basket. Filipowski has also played incredibly well when he can get near the hoop, rebounding and shooting very well there. Young has also provided a steady presence inside. Their problem lies in their inability to play to their strengths. 

Their poor shot selection is certainly the result of assembling such a young team with so little experience. They can’t seem to move the ball well or run plays for their best guys on offense. This can’t fall completely on the obvious issue of freshman inexperience though. It also seems like a clear coaching issue. Especially with such a young team that he’s put together, Scheyer needs to tell his players to stop making the same mistake over and over again. This wouldn’t happen with a more experienced team, and it definitely wouldn’t be allowed to go on this long under Coach K.

If the Blue Devils can’t break this bad habit soon, we are going to be looking at a disappointing freshman coaching season for Scheyer (along with the seven other freshmen on the team).

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