Duke basketball opened its season with a 69-63 win over defending Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State.
The Blue Devils led by six at halftime, then built a lead as large as 18 points in the second half, before a flurry of three-pointers by the Bearcats cut the margin to as close as five.
It’s the closest exhibition game Duke has played this century. The previous closest was a 80-66 win over Shaw at the start of the 2011-12 season.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t express concern over the close score.
“That was really a good game for us. We knew coming in how good [NW Missouri State] have been, and are, and will be. You don’t win 100 out of the last 105 games, and go undefeated last year, and win two out of the last three national championships without having great kids, really good talent, and outstanding coaching,” he said.
The Bearcats played an unusual offense, with all five players shooting from outside and virtually no interior game. The scheme resulted in 15 of 34 shooting from three—the most treys Duke has given up in an exhibition game, topping the 12 that Northwest Missouri hit two years ago.
“That type of offense, for our league—don’t take this the wrong way—it’s unconventional,” Krzyzewski said. “Where you’re never in the post. They play five out. Everybody can handle. Everybody can shoot. There aren’t many teams like that.”
As a result, freshman center Vernon Carey played just 10 minutes, scoring four points, as Duke went to a smaller lineup to match up.
“It was tough for Vernon and Jav (DeLaurier),” Krzyzewski said. “They had eight turnovers in the first half—our big guys. That shouldn’t be, because a big guy’s not being pressured. We were much better in the second half, turnover-wise than we were in the first half. I think we had 11 in the first half, and ended up with 14.”
Despite the flurry of threes, Krzyzewski praised Duke’s defense.
“Overall, defensively, I thought we did a really good job,” he said. “Not a good job, a really good job. To get them to 21 turnovers and hold them in the 60s at the end they were hitting some big time shots but defensively we were really good. … I thought defensively, we played pretty well whole game. They took 34 threes. They never were in the one-and-one, because they were shooting outside. They didn’t get free throws (Northwest Missouri shot just 2-of-4 from the line). They had 21 turnovers. So, if we hold people to the low 60s, that would be really good. That’s been the main point of emphasis for this group.”
Krzyzewski wasn’t happy with his team’s shooting.
“We are not a good shooting team,” he said. “We are a very average shooting team, but we should be a good finishing team. Around the basket we left a lot of points on the court. We should have scored a lot more points. We got some young guys who shoot the ball inside instead of finishing -- there’s a big difference. You don’t shoot inside, you finish. With how hard they’re playing, if you don’t do it that way, you’re gonna miss.”