Three biggest takeaways from Duke basketball’s first victory

Duke basketball (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) /
1 of 3
Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Three observations stood out as the Duke basketball program shook off rust.

After a long and seemingly never-ending offseason, Duke basketball finally made its much-anticipated debut on Saturday against Coppin State.

Duke was able to secure the 81-71 victory at home and extend what is now a 21-game win streak in season-opening games. The Blue Devils led throughout the game but never enjoyed a comfortable lead. They struggled to find a rhythm offensively and kept Coppin State in the game with their turnovers.

It was not the prettiest of victories, but it was a win nonetheless. Duke will certainly have to tighten up on both sides of the ball before a showdown with Michigan State at 7: 30 p.m. on Tuesday (ESPN).

Here are my three biggest takeaways from the Blue Devils’ first victory of the 2020-21 season…

Takeaway No. 1: Duke basketball’s Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward are awesome

It is hard to make a judgment after just one game, but both Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward have already emerged as potential stars. The two freshmen carried the Blue Devils on offense.

Johnson was clearly the most talented player on the floor, showing a little bit of everything. He hit tough contested shots, displayed his 3-point range, protected the rim, and had an incredible put-back dunk. Johnson nearly tallied a 20-20 game to start off his career after dropping 19 points, grabbing 19 rebounds, and dishing out five assists.

The rookie forward also protected the rim exceptionally well with four blocks. Johnson did get a little careless with the ball, though, as he had seven turnovers. But that doesn’t take away from the fact he was often doing it all for the Blue Devils.

Another highly touted recruit, DJ Steward, had a spectacular Blue Devil debut. The freshman combo guard showed off a complete game. He led both sides in scoring with 24 points, which were the fourth-most by a freshman in a debut in Duke basketball history.

DJ Steward just looks like he is wired to score with natural scoring instincts. He showed his ability to knock down catch-and-shoot threes, create off the dribble, and finish at the basket.

One of Steward’s most impressive highlights was an up-and-under reverse layup off a nice assist from fellow freshman Jeremy Roach. Perhaps the most surprising statistic about Steward was his nine rebounds. Of course, it may be a bit of a concern for Duke that a 6-foot-2 guard is the team’s second-leading rebounder.