Rushed Reactions: #2 Duke 66, Connecticut 56

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2014


Brian Otskey filed this report from the Duke-Connecticut game at the Izod Center on Thursday night.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke and Connecticut (USA Today Images)

Duke and Connecticut Battled Out in an Ugly Game in New Jersey Tonight (USA Today Images)

  1. Duke found a different way to win. On a night when the shots did not fall at anywhere near the rate they have for most of this season, the nation’s top team in adjusted offensive efficiency won with defense and rebounding. The Blue Devils held the Huskies to 40.7 percent shooting in the second half, snuffing out any possibility of an extended Connecticut run. Duke also turned the ball over much more than usual (19 times), leading to plenty of extra UConn possessions. With Amile Jefferson and Jahlil Okafor combining for 21 rebounds, however, Duke was able to negate the Connecticut advantage in shot attempts. Getting to the free throw line was also key, as the Blue Devils attempted 34 free throws to Connecticut’s 13. Kevin Ollie refused to take the bait from the assembled media after the game, instead placing the onus on his players for committing too many fouls.
  2. It can’t just be the Ryan Boatright show. While Boatright scored 22 points, he was bothered by Quinn Cook for much of the evening. When he did get free, usually through screening action along the three-point line, Boatright knocked down some impressive three-pointers with a quick release. With Shabazz Napier no longer around, though, opposing defenses can key in on the UConn guard and contain him to a degree. You also see that when Boatright gets frustrated, his shot selection suffers greatly. That can’t continue to happen because it results in a wasted possession and can lead to a long rebound and a runout for the opposition. Kevin Ollie touched on it a bit in the postgame press conference, so he knows that his team must find another reliable scoring option besides Boatright.
  3. Jahlil Okafor is not normal. We know this by now, but it deserves to be repeated. From his post-up moves to defense and court vision, Okafor has the complete package. What is most impressive is his ability to immediately recognize a double-team and find an open man in an instant. In a way, his passing reminds you of a good NFL quarterback under pressure. Okafor threw a couple of lasers to teammates tonight, usually resulting in points for Duke. One nice thing about Okafor’s game is he actually “plays big,” so to speak. When he receives a post entry pass, he usually makes a strong move to the basket or keeps the ball in an elevated position where it cannot easily be stolen. Should he decide to make the move and shoot, Okafor has tremendous awareness. He knows when and where to make the move, and it often results in a bucket. Having the presence of mind to know where to go with the ball is one thing, but combing that with the touch and skill level Okafor possesses puts him far and away above any other college big man. I’m sure a few NBA bigs are below his level too.

Star of the Game: Amile Jefferson, Duke. Jefferson posted his second double-double of the young season with 11 points and 13 rebounds. His strength on the glass contributed in large part to a major Blue Devils’ advantage in the rebounding department. With Duke shooting poorly most of the night and turning the ball over at a high rate, a dominant effort on the boards was necessary in order to secure the victory. Mike Krzyzewski singled out Jefferson after the game for providing a valuable contribution this evening.


  • “Our defense saved us.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, commenting on how his team overcame 19 turnovers and a poor shooting night.
  • “We were out to lunch. We were in la-la land” – Coach K on why he called timeout early in the second half, when he ripped into his team. He said he was very happy with how they responded and called it the sign of a good team.
  • “You can’t keep blaming it on youth. Sooner or later, we got to grow up.” – Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie on his team’s failure to make winning plays down the stretch.

Sights and Sounds: Much was made about the choice of venue for this game and tickets being sold on Groupon, but the turnout was not poor by any means. The Izod Center, roughly five miles west of Midtown Manhattan, has been a second home for Duke in the New York metropolitan area. With the win tonight, the Blue Devils ran their record to an astounding 21-1 at this arena. Rumors about ticket sales struggling did prove to be true, as it was not even close to a sellout. However, the announced crowd of 16,541 was lively. Connecticut brought a large contingent of students down from Storrs for the game, while the large Duke alumni base in this area showed out well.

What’s Next: Duke (10-0) will have another extended layoff over the Christmas holiday before returning to Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 29 to face Toledo. As for Connecticut, the Huskies (4-4) face Columbia this coming Monday on a “neutral” floor in Bridgeport.

Brian Otskey (269 Posts)

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