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Five observations from Duke men’s basketball’s first half against Virginia Tech

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Coming off of an embarrassing loss at N.C. State, No. 6 Duke dominated Virginia Tech throughout the first half of their Saturday night matchup in Cameron Indoor Stadium, heading into the locker room with a 51-25 advantage. Here are five observations from the first 20 minutes.

Small ball

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski went with a starting lineup of Tre Jones, Jordan Goldwire, Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore Jr. and Vernon Carey Jr. Saturday night. With Moore at the four, Duke attempted to utilize a small-ball defensive scheme that was instrumental in Duke’s second-half comeback at Virginia Tech Dec. 6. 

The tactic worked, as the Blue Devils limited the Hokies to just 30 percent shooting from the floor, forcing five Virginia Tech turnovers as well.

Strong offensive start

Against N.C. State, Duke fell behind 10-1 within the game’s first three minutes, a deficit that proved too deep to overcome. The Blue Devils completely flipped the script Saturday night, shooting out to an 11-2 advantage within that same three-minute timeframe. Co-captains Jones and Javin DeLaurier said after Wednesday’s loss that they needed to act hungrier heading into contests, and it seems like they were able to spread that notion to the rest of the team as well.

3-point party 

Duke’s 3-point shooting has been on and off this season. Against Notre Dame, the Blue Devils sunk over 45 percent of their attempts from deep, whereas the team hit just 24 percent of its treys Wednesday in Raleigh. Saturday night, it was more like the former.

Jones started off the contest with two consecutive threes on Duke’s first two offensive possessions, while Stanley continued the party with four outside makes of his own. Even Carey got in on the action, sinking his seventh shot from deep on the season. Overall, the Blue Devils started 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, eventually finishing the first half with eight threes on 15 attempts.

Nolley struggles

Entering the game, Duke knew containing Virginia Tech guard Landers Nolley II would be key. The freshman leads the Hokies with 17.3 points per game, but seemed lost during the first half Saturday, scoring no points on five attempts from the floor.

A big part of the Blue Devils’ December win against the Hokies was limiting Nolley to just seven points on 3-of-7 shooting, and it appears he was a major part of Krzyzewski’s defensive game plan this time around as well.

Player of the half: Cassius Stanley

When Stanley is hitting shots from beyond the arc, you know it’s going to be a tough night for the opponent. The Los Angeles native was on fire over the first 20 minutes Saturday, finishing the first half with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from deep. 

After a disappointing four-point effort Wednesday, Stanley bounced back in a big way back in the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. If the freshman star continues to play like this down the stretch, Duke will be a very dangerous team in March.



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