The Duke basketball team finally debuted a new lineup, and it worked to perfection.
A new season was upon a young Duke basketball roster, ACC season, and it showed early that there was going to be a learning curve.
Virginia Tech (8-5, 0-2 ACC), with a veteran roster, came into Cameron Indoor Stadium and took it two the No. 2 Blue Devils (11-1, 1-0 ACC) in the first half with a 36-32 lead at halftime and expanded that lead to as many as eight in the early stages of the second half.
However, it was a lineup change that Mike Krzyzewski made that sparked a 13-0 run as Duke seized control and went on to win, 76-65.
Freshman forward AJ Griffin has been seldom used in big games this season, but it was his presence, in lieu of sophomore center Mark Williams, that allowed the Blue Devils to slide Paolo Banchero to the center position and allowed the defense to feast.
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Duke forced ten turnovers, which resulted in 17 points.
Griffin ended the night with 13 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block on 5-of-7 shooting from the field as the White Plains, New York native has seen his confidence skyrocket since the team returned from a scheduled two-week break.
Banchero, after a disappointing first half, was spectacular in the second half as he finished with a team-high 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, and a block on 9-of-20 shooting.
The potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft had four turnovers in the first 21 minutes of the game but did not cough up the basketball in the final 19 minutes of action.
Duke basketball needs to use small-ball lineup more often
Mark Williams will be vital for Duke if the program wants to win another National Championship, but the small-ball lineup that the Blue Devils used on Wednesday night could be its best lineup tandem.
It allows Duke to space the floor more, switch everything on defense without getting that bad of a mismatch, and be more athletic in transition with five ball handlers on the court.
Williams was pivotal in Duke’s upset victory over then-No. 1 Gonzaga last month with 19 points, nine rebounds, and six blocks, but the sophomore has fallen into a rough patch in his last three games like he was in to begin the season.
Wednesday was the second time this season Mark Williams was held scoreless in a game.
Duke will return to the court on Wednesday, December 29 on the road against Clemson (9-4, 1-1 ACC) at 2:00 p.m. (ACC Network).