Initial Reaction: Blue Devils Down Demon Deacons, 89-71

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 13: Gary Trent Jr
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 13: Gary Trent Jr /

The Duke Blue Devils won their second straight after falling to North Carolina State last Saturday, this time at home against Wake Forest. It was a relatively easy win but for the second straight game, Dukes defense saw a tremendous increase for the second straight game.

Look at how much more fun Duke is when they play defense!

For the second straight game, the Blue Devils had a more concerted effort than we’ve seen in every previous game combined.  Some would say that Duke listened to our lost podcast where essentially all we talked about was how the players needed to take more pride in playing for Duke University. Last game we saw the floor slap from Trevon Duval and since then, Duke has locked in on defense. They were quicker on their switches, more aggressive in getting in passing lanes forcing 12 turnovers and simply looked more committed on the defensive end.

Against Wake Forest, as is the case with every team Duke has played and will play the entire year, they were by far the more talented team. Marvin Bagley gave us a 30 and 11 game even though he should have had more. He was 11-21 from the field but most of his misses were point blank misses which he cleaned up with his own rebound. Gary Trent was on fire as he went 6-7 from deep and added 19 points. Wendell Carter was only 3-9 from the field but went 2-4 from three to chip in 15 points.

The most encouraging part of this game was Jeff Capel, filling in for Coach K who was out with an illness, going to his bench. Dukes bench had a combined 37 minutes and 15 points. Alex O’Connell led the way with 13 off the bench but (again, another thing we talked about on the greatest lost episode in podcasting history) Capel’s willingness to go the bench could be a turning point this season for the Blue Devils. We saw Dukes bench get extended minutes against Pittsburgh and combine for 22 points. They were also without their two best bench players the last two games in Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. It might not be a coincidence that in the two games the bench had extended minutes, the team defense improved tremendously. It gives the starters a blow which in turn gives them more energy on both ends of the floor.

Next: Duke Blue Devils Fall in NCAA Polls

These last two games look like big stepping stones for the rest of the season. It looks like the team has bought into the Duke way and is more centered around team performance than individual accolades. Just look at the quotes following last game. The team was sick of getting it’s doors blown off by vastly inferior teams and clearly put the effort in to do so. One game against Pittsburgh showing the effort is fine and dandy but starting to make it a habit could be the moment we look back on in April as the turning point of this season.