Duke had a closer than expected opening game, beating Coppin State at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 81-71 on Saturday. Here are some thoughts on the new-look Blue Devils.
Jalen Johnson: The biggest takeaway is the highly-rated freshman, who hit all eight of his shot attempts and scored 19 points with 19 rebounds, becoming one of just three Blue Devils in history to open their career with a double-double. He also led the team with five assists and four blocks.
The bigs: Duke’s big men were missing in action on Saturday. Mark Williams got four minutes, scoring on a lob. Henry Coleman got one minute, and Patrick Tape didn’t get off the bench. Coach K explained afterward that Coppin State’s decision to go small forced him to leave his bigs off the floor.
Turnovers: Duke struggled with ball control, turning it over 22 times to eight for Coppin State. That included seven by Johnson, the one blemish on his game. Duke didn’t seem to have one go-to point guard to run things in the game, a role that Jeremy Roach is probably the best candidate to fill eventually, but things could be a little erratic until he does.
Fouls: Duke also struggled with fouls, committing 19 to Coppin State’s 12, with Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt each committing four. Just as troubling, Duke didn’t get to the line, despite Moore and Hurt’s repeated emphasis on driving in preseason interviews.
Leadership: The returning players are young, aside from senior Jordan Goldwire, and it showed when Coppin State rallied, as the team didn’t have someone to take control on the floor. Coach K said the communication wasn’t up to par, and he pointedly praised two freshmen—Roach and DJ Steward—for their leadership, leaving out Hurt, Moore and Joey Baker.