If the Duke-Kansas game was revealing then the Duke-Delaware game may have been more so. Duke won, 92-58, but first of all, it wasn’t as easy as that would suggest.
And one reason – not necessarily the main one – is simple: Delaware is a competent, well-coached team that refused to to go away until fairly late.
Duke built a lead in the first half which Delaware cut down to six by halftime and for much of the second half, they kept it fairly close.
The Blue Hens were down just 56-47 with 11:28 to go and maybe guys just got tired.
Gianmarco Arletti picked up two quick fouls and missed a three and when that was over, Duke was back up by 10, soon to be 13 following a Jacob Grandison three. By the time LJ Owens scored with 9:07 left, the Blue Hens were down 66-49.
Jameer Nelson Jr. hits a two-pointer with 6:34 left. Next Hens score was Nelson with a free throw with 4:52 left. Then Jyare Davis hits a shot with 4:20 left. Nigel Shad hits a basket with :53 on the clock and Fred Rullo hits a pair of freebies with 0:16 land that was that.
In other words, they really had trouble scoring in the last 11:28.
In fact, Duke outscored them 36-11 down the stretch. Part of it was just that Duke was better, had more talent, and ultimately wore the Blue Hens down.
That’s fairly typical in games like this though, again, we stress that Delaware is a solid and well-coached team.
None of that is what made this game more interesting than Kansas though.
What made it more interesting is that this was the first game that Duke played with its full roster. And as positive as that was, neither Dereck Lively or Dariq Whitehead was at full strength, though Lively is closer.
Lively has not had a big stat game since coming back from his stat injury, but he runs beautifully. His physique is not there yet, but his ability to run reminds us a bit of former Kentucky star Willie Cauliy Stein.
His offensive potential is vastly superior to that of the former Wildcat and NBA star. He didn’t score a lot here, but he had a couple of beautiful passes. He’s only going to get better.
And while Dariq Whitehead played 16 minutes, shooting just 3-11, we learned a couple of things. First, he’s very quick. When Ricky Price was at Duke, we said that if basketball was played in a 7×7 box, no one could ever beat him. Whitehead has some of that too. He had a dazzling spin move in the lane that would have impressed Zion Williamson.
As good as both of these guys potentially are offensively, their defense is going to send Duke to another level, and we’ve barely gotten a hint of that.
The other thing that we’re now seeing is that Tyrese Proctor, after a slow start, is growing in leaps and bounds. Talk about another level.
He’s vastly more aggressive now than he was in the first couple of games and we’re starting to see what the summer raves are about.
Kyle Filipowski missed his fourth straight double-double with just eight boards and 18 points (that’s okay, it was Proctor’s turn: he had 13 points and 10 boards).
Jaylen Blakes had another solid game, shooting 3-6 and working hard on defense. After a down game against KU, Jacob Grandison was solid against Delaware, hitting 4-4, including a tremendous dunk.
And when Delaware threatened, which happened a couple of times when Jeremy Roach was out, he got sent right back in to steady his team.
Clearly, Delaware is no Kansas. They may have been a perfect opponent for Duke right now however. They were good enough to push Duke and to concern the Blue Devils, but could only have beaten them if things went perfectly for them. And clearly, they didn’t.
They gave Duke a chance to show growth though, we thought they did. The thing is though, this team has tremendous growth potential. They’ll be in most games simply because of the talent level, but as they learn to work together, they have the potential to be really, really good.
They’ll see Bellarmine Monday, and that team beat Louisville at Louisville and gave Clemson a tough game on the road Friday night as well.
That’s a solid measure for Duke, and we’ll see where things stand after that.